One of our missions at Ocean Junction is to foster a passion for adventure and to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. We believe that everyone should have access to sport and outdoor adventure. As part of that mission we believe strongly that water safety is a life skill that every individual should have to enable them to live the adventure life of their choosing. The purpose of this series is to feature individuals, swim schools, and companies who live and breathe water safety and who make safe swimming accessible to everyone. Our second blog in this series features The Interior Savings Across the Lake Swim, an event that supports and promotes water safety programs for children.
The Across the Lake Swim is the longest running and largest open water swim in Canada. Originally, part of the Kelowna Regatta, the swim now stands on it’s own drawing in hundreds and now thousands of participants each year. Participants include children and adults of all ages. Not only is this a fun event but it’s also for a good cause. The YMCA of Okanagan Swims Program was created in 2012 to "drown-proof our kids". This program is solely funded by the Across the Lake Swim Society so your registration fee funds this amazing program, which sends every third grader (over 1400 children annually) in the Okanagan School District for free swimming lessons.
Historically, the swim across the lake was a right of passage to demonstrate to parent's that their kids were strong enough swimmers to be able to swim on their own. The race has maintained much of that historical integrity by stating that this swim is about "mastering the distance" more than it is a race. The "Across the Shore" 25m and 50m swims have recently been added to the event. They are both free and give kids a taste of the race with a whole lot of fun as they can run or swim the distance with "Baby Shark" blasting in the background.
Having heard lots of positive things about this event, I was excited to participate in the event for the first time this year. Here's a little taste of my experience.
Picture this: 1200 swimmers standing on the Old Ferry Docks in West Kelowna staring across Lake Okanagan to the finish line in City Park. The view is vast, beautiful and daunting. As I stand there, ready to complete the 2.1km swim for the first time- I am surrounded by other participants, chatting, expressing words of encouragement and excitement that I am participating for the first time. To my left, there is a mother and her young daughter sitting in their wetsuits playing cards; To my right, a woman who is completing the swim for her 11th time. She tells me that every year, she swears she won’t do the swim again yet here she is drawn back by the amazing community of friendly volunteers and swimmers. There is a buzz: excitement, joy, and a few nerves- a truly electric and communal feel that sets this swim apart.
The race goes off in waves with about 100 swimmers per wave. To start the race, I walk down a boat launch, getting high fives and cheers of encouragement from the volunteers. Once in the water, I paddle the 50m to the start line and wait to head off. The view from the start line is breathtaking. I can see the waves of swimmers with their support kayakers and stand up paddle boarders ahead of me. The finish line is visible and is framed by the trees of City Park and the Mountains of Kelowna, which provide excellent sight lines during the race. After the starter counts down, we head off.
The wave quickly spreads out and before long, I feel the calm, peace of being alone amongst the crowd of swimmers and support boaters in the vast lake. I aim my body towards the left of the mountain range, sighting every 10 or so strokes and just swim. The finish line is marked by big smiles, hugs, and swimmers helping each other across the line hand-in-hand. From start to finish this swim is about community, support and mastering the distance. I will definitely be back next year!