Is there an open water swimming club in Squamish?

Just back from the SwimBowen race, the non-profit adult open water swim club is welcoming all swimmers as it enters its second season.

It’s been a little over a year since Swim wild Squamish, the non-profit masters club dedicated to outdoor swimming in the Sea to Sky, took its first steps as a group in the spring of 2021.

It is going strong halfway through this second summer season.

They currently have about fifty members.

In mid-July, seven members traveled to Bowen Island to SwimBowenan open water swimming course of 1,500 or 750 meters.

This was the first race Swim Wild entered as a club.

“We are all too [Squamish] Titans as well. So it was pretty fun representing the Titans and Swim Wild,” said Katie Coombs, one of the members who took to the waters – without a wetsuit – for the Bowen event.

“The water was calm on the surface. Below it was a whole different story,” Coombs said with a laugh. “And the water temperature was around 16.8°C, so it was cool.”

The Squamish club often swims at Lake Alice or Porteau Cove and the ocean off Bowen was a different experience.

She noted that the water in Squamish is around 12°C, so much colder than the ocean near Bowen.

“The water is actually much saltier in Bowen; the ocean in Squamish is much saltier. [mixed with] river water and fresh water. So there is a difference, and then there are also the waves in the currents below that you have to deal with.”

Coombs said at one point during the swim she wondered why some people had strayed from their course, then realized she had been traveling, not her teammates.

“I realized I was the one in left field and they were swimming where they were supposed to be swimming,” she laughed.

Like the other six Squamish participants, Coombs had signed up for the 1,500 meters, but ultimately opted for the 750 because she had been sick in the hospital with an infection and was recovering from a concussion.

“My target was to finish in under 30 minutes and I did it in…29:49.6. Considering I went from a hospital bed to the ocean…it wasn’t my best, but considering what’s happened this year so far, it was a huge accomplishment for me.”

She said the mutual support within Swim Wild is amazing.

Swimmer Kay Levis, in her own race, took time to cheer on Coombs along the way.

“Even when she passed me on her second loop on her breath, she said, ‘Good job, Katie. And on her next breath, she said, ‘Keep going,'” Coombs recalled.

“It gave me the motivation to keep going because it was tough.”

For Coombs, SwimBowen was also meaningful because the money raised goes to cancer survivors.

The 2022 event raised $45,500 with just 62 attendees.

“My uncle passed away [from] cancer in January. So I did it in her honor this year,” Coombs said, adding that thinking about people with cancer helped her get through her run when she was feeling low.

“People with cancer don’t have the option to back out after five minutes. For example, they can’t just say, ‘Oh, you know, I don’t like it. I’m just going to quit.’ Like, that’s not an option for them. So I was like, well, why is that an option for me?”

Results of Swim Wild SwimBowen

1500 length: Mel Horner 27:38.3

1500 length: Kay Levis 28:28.2

750 length: Katie Coombs 29:49.6

Length 1500: Jennifer Leigh 31:21.6

1500 length: Maggie Georgy-Embree 32:33.0

1500 length: Sarah Greenwood 33:08.6

Length 1500: Marlaina Rhymer 33:18.1

Next, members of the Squamish Club embark on an “Ironman” swim at Brohm Lake.

It is 2.5 kilometers around the lake on August 7.

“You basically swim to the very end of Brohm and then all the way back,” Coombs said.

The club welcomes new members of all levels.

They swim Tuesday evenings at Lake Alice and Saturday mornings at Porteau Cove. On the first Sunday of each month, they bathe at a random location.

“Over the past two weeks we’ve had a lot of new people, which has made us super excited. It’s exciting that people are still learning about the club, and people still want to join and how great there are. interest in open water swimming,” Coombs said.

The club is also always on the lookout for more volunteer spotters who stay ashore during swims to help keep people safe.

Learn more by going to Wild Squamish Swimmer on Facebook or swimwildsquamish.com.