Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

  • Aug. 18, 2018 8:10 a.m.

Paul Bucci, special to Black Press Media

When ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons steps into the cold Pacific ocean on Saturday for her epic attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back, hundreds of people will be following her from first splash and every stroke of the way, willing her to be successful.

Among them will be two of Canada’s swimming giants — Marilyn Bell, who famously was the first to swim across Lake Ontario and also swam the English Channel and the Strait of Juan de Fuca; and Vicki Keith, who holds 16 world records, and is considered to be the most successful marathon swimmer in the history of the sport.

What Simmons is attempting is monumental — swimming twice across the strait has never been done. The level of physicality and mental toughness needed to complete such a feat is almost beyond comprehension.

The fact that Simmons is attempting this while dealing with multiple sclerosis makes the challenge even more remarkable.

Keith, Canada’s most honoured open-water swimmer, swam the strait using the butterfly stroke in 1989. The numbing cold of the Pacific ocean hit her hard, causing her to repeatedly pass out near the end of the swim.

“You can actually see me fall unconscious as my head enters the water after a breath. Then I shake my head, take two more strokes and a breath, and go unconscious again,” Keith says, referring to video of her taken as she approached Victoria.

“One crossing is significant,” Keith says. “A double crossing. No one has even tried that before.”

READ MORE: Both brains and brawn essential for Vancouver Island marathon swimmer

READ MORE: Tide, winds delay marathon swim across Juan de Fuca Strait

Marilyn Bell, now 80, also knows the challenge Simmons is taking on. Bell was the first person to swim Lake Ontario and later swam the English Channel and has also swam the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In fact, Simmons managed to swim across the strait last year breaking Bell’s record crossing, set more than 60 years ago.

“The biggest thrill for me, aside from the fact that she made it and swam the traditional way all the way to Victoria, was that she broke my record, standing since 1956,” Bell says.

“She’s such an amazing courageous woman, the fact that she was able to take that devastating diagnosis of MS and turn it around and go on living, and not just getting by, and challenging herself.

“But it all goes back to that marathon heart — she doesn’t know how to give up.”

Simmons acknowledged that in a past interview, saying that beyond all of the physical training, the other thing she does, considering her words carefully, is to work on her mental toughness. “I think it’s important to build your, um, willpower muscle,” she said.

Beyond the physical and mental challenge, what Simmons will attempt on Saturday is meant to be an example of what people can do when facing physical hurdles like multiple sclerosis.

‘Her personal story is so much more than just the swim,” Bell says. “The way she is able to motivate other swimmers and other young men and women, it’s just her ability to put herself out there and be a positive role model.

“It’s just amazing, and she’s an awesome, awesome human being.”

Simmons is expected to start her swim at 1 p.m. on Saturday, depending on wind and sea conditions.

Her team of supporters will document her swim from first splash until the end.

And, as Bell and Keith say, supporters and swimmers from around the world will be glued to their devices, looking for updates, and sending their best wishes her way.

“People all around the world are supporting her,” Bell says. “We are willing her, Number 1, to be safe, and hopefully she will be successful, as long as the Juan de Fuca is cooperative.

“With that body of water, you never know.”

Susan Simmons is expected to start her swim at 1 p.m. today in Victoria.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Just Posted

New Surrey councillor is a newer dad

Mandeep Nagra’s son Kabar was born at Surrey Memorial Hospital, four days after the civic election

Over-budget bids cause delay of four Surrey school projects

Two projects have gone back out to tender, two awaiting ‘revised budget approval’ from Ministry of Education

Fees ensure patients have access to parking at SMH, FHA says

Fraser Health Authority hasn’t heard yet from city hall about pay parking at Surrey hospital

Free hospital parking a non-starter in White Rock

City considering task force to look at parking generally – Walker

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

South Korean named Interpol president in blow to Russia

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol’s president edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services.

E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce sickens 18 people in Ontario, Quebec

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it’s working with U.S. authorities to determine the source of the romaine lettuce those who got ill were exposed to.

Trump defies calls to punish crown prince for writer’s death

The U.S. earlier sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the Oct. 2 killing, but members of Congress have called for harsher actions, including cancelling arms sales.

British, EU leaders to meet as Brexit deadline looms

The U.K. and the European Union agreed last week on a 585-page document sealing the terms of Britain’s departure.

Richard Oland was killed ‘in a rage,’ prosecutor tells son’s murder trial

The verdict from Oland’s 2015 murder trial was set aside on appeal in 2016. Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011.

B.C.’s HMCS Edmonton rescues two more sea turtles

Warship credited with a turtle rescue earlier in November

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Most Read