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Great Bear Swim

This year, mid July, three Canadian swimmers will attempt a 50 kilometre staged open water swim in the Great Bear Sea. Through their journey they will share stories about the rich history of the two communities they swim between and the unique environment that connects them.   The swim expedition will begin on the shores of Ocean Falls, British Columbia and end on the shores of Bella Bella. If all goes well the journey will take 2 days with a stop overnight on Stoney Island.  

Link to article by The Province newspaper: Great Bear Sea swim

Ocean Falls has a rich history with Canadian Swimming dating back to the 1950's and 1960's.  The town of 3000 residents won 26 national swimming events during a fourteen year period, and an Ocean Falls swimmer was on every Canadian Olympic, Commonwealth, or Pan Am Games team during this time.  Below is an excerpt from the Great Bear Swim website written by Susan Simmons, a resident of Victoria living with multiple sclerosis, and showing that her quality of life has not been controlled by being diagnosed with MS.  


Why swim the Great Bear Sea by Susan Simmons

There’s a lot of places one can choose to swim around the world. Within the marathon swim community some of the more popular swims are the English Channel, North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar.  These swims are officially the Ocean’s Seven and is considered the marathon swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits. So why would we, or me in particular, choose to swim the Great Bear Sea – an unknown swim within the marathon swim community?

Here’s my one-two-three reasons why.

1. I want others with Multiple Sclerosis to be healthy

Swimming has been life-healing for me. It is the main way in which I manage Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Had I not taken up swimming over ten years ago I have no doubt I would be in a wheel chair today. I swim ultra-marathons as a way to show others with the disease that quality-of-life does not end with MS. Swimming, and other forms of exercise can be helpful ways to manage the disease. Swimming the Great Bear Sea is a great way for me to share the that message.

You can learn more about me and my MS on my website MSathlete.

2. I want to honour those who have come before me

From 1948 to 1972 the Ocean Falls Swim Club placed at least one swimmer on every Canadian Olympic, Commonwealth, or Pan American Games team. The club had a reputation for being one of the most dominant clubs in Canada. These swimmers and their coaches have had an incredible impact on swimming in our country. One of their coaches, Mr. George Gate, went on to be the Aquatics Director at the Pointe Claire Pool. He was the coach of many of our coaches, and our coaches coaches.

The swimmers and coaches of Ocean Falls should be honoured and their stories should not be forgotten.  I hope to share what I learn of them as I prepare for the swim as a way of honouring them.

You can learn more about the Ocean Falls swimmers at the BC Sports Hall of Fame. If you know of any swimmers please put them in touch with me so I can share their story on this website.

3. I live in a beautiful place that is a joy to discover

Although I was born in Montreal, a city which I love dearly, I have lived in British Columbia for half of my life. Living here has had a profound impact on my life. So much so that I am sometimes teased about being the “granola daughter.”  Yet there is so much of this province that I have not yet discovered.

I hope through the Great Bear Swim to learn about the this incredible body of water, the mountains that hug it and the people that live on the land beside it. I hope to meet many of the people in the communities en route and find out what daily life is like living in the region and what issues are important to them. I hope to spend time with the First Nations community, the Heiltsuk, and have the opportunity to share their stories through this website.

Of all of the things I cherish the most about an ultra-marathon swim, it is learning about the area I am swimming in and meeting the people who live there. There is no better place to do this than in my own back yard.

Please join Dale and Jill and I from July 13 to 14 as we dip our toes in the very cool waters of the Great Bear Sea and swim through waters that no-one has swum through before. Join us in celebrating fitness and health. Join us in exploring this very special local pristine waterway. Join us in meeting the people in the communities.



For more information on the Great Bear Swim, click the link below.