Open Water Swim
The Race Rocks Challenge is an unprecedented six-kilometre open water swim by select Pearson College UWC students from Race Rocks Ecological Reserve to the main College docks on Pedder Bay planned for Saturday, May 25, 2019. Seven students – six from Canada, one from Israel – have trained for months with an experienced open water distance coach to meet this inspirational challenge. Wearing wet suits and accompanied by an experience support team of motorized boats and kayaks, the seven will be guided by a comprehensive safety plan to ensure the well-being of every participant.
Curiosity is what led us to approach Pearson’s Marine Sciences teacher Laura Verhegge with the question “Has anyone done a swim to or from Race Rocks before?” After hearing it had never been successfully attempted, we thought this project would be a great way to motivate ourselves to train and to rally the many swimmers at the College.
Goal for Students
Through The Race Rocks Challenge, we hope to instill confidence and pride in all Pearson students. For many, a goal of this nature seems impossible. However, participating students that work towards it come to realize that what seems impossible is actually achievable with hard work, a supportive community and a well-executed plan.
Goal for the College
Through The Race Rocks Challenge, we hope to use this ambitious and exciting experience to help fundraise for new, modern indoor training pool equipment, to engage and reach out to Pearson alumni and to raise awareness about the College in our region and across Canada.
“For all of us involved in this project, swimming and organized sports have been a major part of our lives. The team spirit, scheduled training, physical challenge and sense of working towards a common goal all are contributing to an incredible experience and a deep appreciation for the incredible nature and facilities that are steps away from our dormitories.” Learn more about the swimmers and what motivates each one of them.
Swim Coach / Mentor
Students are training with and are mentored by Susan Simmons, who has volunteered her time with the Pearson swimmers. Simmons works extensively with Special Olympics participants, including a group called the Spirt Orcas who are currently training for a relay crossing of the English Channel and the Great Bear Swim training camp.
The seven students have trained hard and are keen to meet the challenge of a 6 km swim in the chilly late-spring waters of the Salish Sea.
A swim route and potential alternative drop route have been scouted and Seafront Race Rocks Coordinator, Guy Ouradou has taken swim and support team to familiarize them with the planned course and natural features.
The William Head Swim Test will be used to judge the swimmer ability to swim distance and manage cold water.
All Kayakers are certified guides and will be responsible for monitoring the safety of the swimmers. Paddlers are trained in assisting a swimmer in distress and assessing signs of effects of cold-water swimming and stages of hypothermia. Kayakers will be in constant radio communication with the Swim Coach and Head Safety Kayaker for ongoing monitoring and assessment of the swimmer’s wellbeing. The lead Kayaker will set the route for the swimmers to follow.
Swim Safety Plan
Safety is the highest priority. All swimmers will be wearing full-body wetsuits and there will be a flotilla of safety personnel and observers in powered craft and certified guide-staffed kayaks who will be surrounding the swimmers every metre of the way. We have worked with all agencies, including the Canadian Coast Guard, that have responsibilities for the marine environment and shipping traffic.
Some of our greatest learning is born out of curiosity.
Hayley (YR 44/2019, Canada-NB) learned to swim with 2 or 3 years of age. “I swim to stay healthy, set and reach goals. I want to leave my mark at Pearson and I think the Race Rocks Challenge is my way to do this.”
Mara (YR 45/2020, Canada-MB) was a competitive swimmer for most of her life. “Cold open water swimming is something that will really challenge me and let me discover and push my limits.”
Mikella (YR 45/2020, Canada) learned to swim in Bangkok and started swimming competitively when she moved to Singapore. “I want to do the Race Rocks swim because it connects me back to an important part of my life before I moved to Pearson.”
Dvir’s (YR44/2019, Israel) nickname is Angel Shark! “In open water I feel free. I swim to take care of myself mentally and challenge myself physically.”
Tess (YR 44/2019, Canada-YT) learned to swim at her elementary school’s pool, at the American School of Doha, Qatar. “There is a sense of accomplishment, a challenge, a thrill in long distance swimming.”
Andrew (YR 45/2020, Canada-NL) learned how to swim when he was 4 years old. “I love to swim, but I have never swum in the ocean until now. I’ve never pushed myself to do something like this so I’m really excited to see if I’m up for the Race Rocks challenge.”
Sarah’s (“YR 45/2020, Canada-NL) parents introduced her to water when she was a mere toddler, and as she grew, so did her swimming abilities. “This swim is extremely difficult and it will push me outside my comfort zone.”
Swim Coach / Mentor Susan Simmons is a Canadian marathon swimmer living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). She began open-water swimming in 2008 and 4 years later competed in her first 10 km assisted (wetsuit) ocean swim (Vancouver Open Water Swim Association’s Bay Challenge) placing first among women.
The challenge, the excitement, the beauty of the area, the possibility for team spirit and camaraderie are what attract me to open water swimming.
Connecting Race Rocks - my favourite part of Pearson - with swimming, which has been a huge part of my life for so long, will be an incredible way to end my first year at the cCollege,"
I think that this swim has already brought me closer to new people, and to new experiences, which is the whole point of our time at Pearson.
There is a sense of accomplishment, a challenge, a thrill in long distance swimming.
At Pearson, I feel as if I’m able to do anything, which makes this six km swim so enticing.
This swim is extremely difficult, and it will push me outside my comfort zone. This will prove to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.
In open water, I feel free. To grow in swimming, as well as in life, you must jump into the open water.
We are grateful to all our supporters and sponsors who helped make this challenge a reality. Thank you.