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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP promise enforcement at unofficial show ‘n’ shines

Cars have been impounded at the site in the last two years

UPDATE: Gabby’s Country Cabaret announces ‘heartbreaking’ permanent closure

Owner Steve Gallagher ‘holds out hope’ of a new future for the 35-year-old nightlife hotspot

Summerset organizers aim to appeal restriction to continue with Langley drive-in festival

A recent provincial health decision, no more than 50 vehicles are permitted to gather for B.C. events

VIDEO: Workout Wednesday with Brand Fitness

Week eight circles back to focus on the chest and back muscles

Langley’s ‘kindness ninjas’ could be coming to a doorstep near you

Community joins in on the growing trend of surprising people in self-isolation with anonymous gifts

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Aldergrove Star to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read