October swim.

This summer I went swimming. I swam and swam and swam right into fall. I swam in Canada’s largest open water swim race, Across the Lake in Kelowna and I swam 12 kilmetres in Canada’s longest lake swim, the Skaha Ultra. When all the training was done I decided to swim every single day in the lake until October just for the love of the lake. For the love of swimming. My 52-day streak had no fixed swim distance but each swim ended with a handstand. Why? The answer is as unfathomable as the streak.

IMG_0934.JPG“If all you did in your lifetime was enjoy the beautiful things around you — the sunset, moon and clouds or all the plants and animals — that would be a worthy life.” Laird Hamilton

I’ve swum in the English Channel, the Hudson River, the Med, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Caribbean and in countless Canadian lakes. Anywhere. Everyday. Always. It’s who I am.

At the cottage, with my mum and dad (left) looking on.

Of all the places I’ve swum Okanagan Lake is as perfect as it gets.

IMG_1606.jpgIt’s clean, big, deep, varied, gets nice and warm in summer, has few weeds, no predators, changing weather conditions to make it feel like an ocean some days and the scenery is spectacular. I’ve seen eagles and osprey fishing, loons diving, vintage planes flying overhead, sailboats, windsurfers and kite boarders playing, outriggers, kayakers, dragon boaters, paddle boarders. I’ve swum beside an historic paddle wheeler. I’ve dodged sunbathers on rafts and talked to triathletes. I’ve occasionally collected beer cans to recycle and dove down to add to my sunglass collection. I watched water bombers fight a wildfire. One awful day I kept an eye for a dead body as searchers looked for a drowning victim.

Sometimes the lake is silver.
Sometimes I wear at wetsuit but not on my streak.
During the wildfires, sometimes the lake was shrouded in smoke.
Other days it was blue.
Calm as a mill pond…
Choppy like the ocean.

I like to watch the water drip off my arms and sparkle in the sun. One magical day during a sun shower, raindrops splashed back off the lake like diamonds. I’ve seen small glowing yellow leaves suspended in dark waters.

Not to over romanticize it, the last two weeks of the streak took some moments of courage to enter the bone chilling water.

One, two, three and swim like hell.

On the plus side, I have had lovely Manitou beach and her sheltered bay all to myself. My swim three days ago was the nicest of the year. The sun was warm, my skin burning in the cold water and I was feeling uplifted, clean, happy, energized and calm all at the same time. It’s a sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

And then there is cake! Time to celebrate the end of the streak with a spiced apple caramel handstand cake. 
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Thanks to the Handyman for the lifeguarding when it got cold and for the HandstandCam photography!
Bring on Spring!