Traditional open-water ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons struggles against 37 km an hour winds in 2017 with safety crew members Ray Este and Collette Heneghan in the nearby kayak. Conditions became so rough that Simmons was forced to pull out. This year, Simmons plans to attempt two massive swims: a continuous unassisted double-crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria to Port Angeles, and a continuation of last year’s Great Bear swim, from Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast to Vancouver Island. (Photo contributed)

Island woman plans two massive swims this summer

Water adventure fundraisers for MS and First Nations youth camps

Whatever the distance, Victoria swimmer Susan Simmons is willing to go.

‘Every time I get in the water, I challenge myself,” said Simmons, who plans to attempt two massive swims this summer: a continuous unassisted (no-wet suit) double-crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria to Port Angeles, and a continuation of last year’s Great Bear swim, from Ocean Falls on B.C.’s Central Coast to Vancouver Island.

Her swims are aimed to raise awareness for environmental issues, and to fundraise for the MS Wellness Centre and the Heiltsuk First Nation youth camp program.

Simmons is a traditional open-water marathon swimmer, which means she only wears a traditional swim suit, a swim cap, and goggles while in the water.

“If I wore a wetsuit, that would help me in a lot of ways, like controlling my body temperature or helping my muscles, and I want to do it naturally,” she said.

In earlier years, Simmons swam up until the age of about 15, but didn’t return to the sport until she was 40.

“I was diagnosed with MS, and swimming helps control my symptoms,” Simmons explained, noting the water helps keep her body cool while exercising. “Heat can trigger an MS attack.”

The swimming started off in the pool, but Simmons was looking for more of a challenge.

“I was worried I was going to get bored. I wanted new goals and challenges to keep myself fit,” said Simmons. So she took to the ocean, and has never looked back.

“Being out there in the water is amazing,” said Simmons.

She trains year-round and approximately 30 hours a week, getting in the water usually twice a day, or doing another form of exercise including weightlifting, paddling, or biking. In the winter, Simmons also tries to get in the water for lengthy amounts of time to help better adjust to the temperatures on her marathon swims.

While enduring the long swims, Simmons calms herself into a meditative state and tries to focus on her strokes and breaths.

“I’m aware of the risks, but to me these swims are just about the experience, getting out there and having fun. When you’re out there totally surrounded by blue, the sky above, the water all around you, and you look down below you and all you can see is blue… there’s nothing like it. It’s a surreal feeling,” said Simmons.

If she is successful on her swims this summer, Simmons will make history.

The Great Bear swim takes place on June 6 and 7, starting at Lama Passage, where she will swim approximately 20 kilometres each day until she reaches Koeye River. Along the route, through Heiltsuk territory will include a stop at a camp for First Nations children.

Last year when she tried the Great Bear swim, she was challenged because the area is so heavily populated with humpback whales.

“They hear or see something that’s unfamiliar to them so they come and check it out. One swam up underneath me once, but they are not there to hurt us, they are just curious and it is such an honour that I get to share these bodies of water with them on my swims” said Simmons.

The Juan de Fuca swim will take place in August.

She will have a team of 10 people, including a coastguard following her along both journeys. The team will pass Simmons food and water as she stops every half hour to regain energy.

Those who wish to track the Great Bear swim can visit greatbearswim.com.

The Great Bear swim is raising money for the Heiltsuk youth camps, called the QQS Projects Society, which helps teach Heiltsuk youth about their traditional values, practices, and laws. To donate to the program, visit canadahelps.org.

Just Posted

Two Terrace kayakers set out on Nass River with fundraising mission

By travelling 380km, their aim is to encourage more youth to paddle

DFO announces openings for chinook

Opportunities are few between widespread closures

Lost Lake closed for fishing due to goldfish invasion

Pet fish is considered an invasive species to B.C. wild

Skeena Voices | Designing a strong identity

Kelly Bapty is the province’s first Indigenous female architect from a B.C. nation

Northwest couples compete at His and Hers golf tournament in Prince Rupert

Kitimat and Smithers couples take home the hardware

VIDEO: Stop-motion artist recreates Kawhi Leonard’s famous buzzer-beater

It took Jared Jacobs about 40 hours to make the video, on top of the research

Man charged in crash that killed B.C. pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged for 2018 Highway 1 accident where Kelowna elementary school teacher died

VIDEO: Clip of driver speeding past B.C. school bus alarms MLA

Laurie Throness of Chilliwack-Kent says he will lobby for better safety measures

Province unveils 10-year plan to boost mental health, addiction recovery services

The plan, called A Pathway to Hope, focuses on early-intervention services that are seeing high demand

Rock slide in B.C. river may hinder salmon passage

DFO says it is aware that the slide occurred in a narrow portion of the Fraser River

Four-hour tarmac delay violates charter rights of Canadians with a disability: lawsuit

Bob Brown says new rules reduce the distance he can travel by air without putting his health at risk

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Most Read