Friday, June 14, 2024

Poor conditions force swimmer to reschedule Juan de Fuca double-cross


Victoria athlete Susan Simmons has rescheduled her attempt at swimming from Victoria to Port Angeles and back after poor weather conditions forced a delay last week.

Simmons initially planned to make her swim—a historic first if she completes it—on August 1. But high winds forced her and her team to reschedule.

She will now attempt the swim on either August 18, 19, or Sept. 1. The route to Port Angeles and back goes 33 kilometres each way.

“There was a bit of a letdown when the first tide window was a no go,” Simmons says. “But I trust my crew, and safety always comes first. In high winds the boat can accidentally hit me or loose sight of me in the water.”

Simmons, as previously reported, has swam the Strait of Juan de Fuca once before. But that trip only took her one way, and doing it twice comes with significant risk.

“There are very few athletes who have successfully achieved a single crossing. Susan keeps company with icons of the sport—Vicki Keith, Marilyn Bell,” says Brent Hobbs, a British Columbia swimmer who swam the English Channel solo ten years ago.

“The tides are very tricky,” he continues. “You basically have the open Pacific colliding with the inland waters of the Strait. And if the winds pick up, which they surely will during a 24-hour period, Susan may have to swim through what I call the ‘washing machine’—a mix of swell from the Pacific and wind waves/current in the middle of the Strait.”

Simmons, who has Multiple Sclerosis, swims to raise awareness about the disease and environmental issues. She’s lived with MS for more than 20 years, and uses cold-water swimming and a vegan diet to control its symptoms.

In preparation for the double-crossing, Simmons has swam more than 1,000 kilometres since September. She’s currently swimming 10 km several times a week, and will also be paddling with the MS Warriors dragon boating team this weekend at the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival.

When asked if having the date of her swim delayed made things any harder, Simmons was casual in her response.

“Is it easy? Difficult? As a person living with MS, I have learned to take one day at a time as I never know what tomorrow night bring,” she says. “I try to have a sense of calm with all I do to keep me moving forward.

Myles Sauer
Former staff editor and writer at Victoria Buzz.

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