Why swim the Great Bear Sea?

ecThere’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

george-gate-1970-montreal-star-file-photo-10125843From 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

DSC_0135Although 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.

– posted by Susan

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Kay York says:

    What a thrill this will be for your mates Susan. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. I will love learning more about this adventure as the days draw near. You should be so proud! I know the MS Warriors are all so proud of you.

  2. Diane says:

    Susan I love hearing of your passion and commitment to wellness. We all will be you in spirit and heart.

  3. Tom Gilmore says:

    Big Hoorah for the Great Bear Sea! Can’t wait to witness and Kayak Support Safety!

  4. Elizabeth. J Wilsom says:

    I am from Bella Bella and I went to Highschool in Ocean Falls. I was part of the swim team for the three years I went to school there. I was not an “elite” swimmer but enjoyed my time and have such fond memories of George Gates. I hope to meet you when you arrive in Bell Bella. What a wonderful way to honour the swim team and Mr. Gates and empower those with MS! I shall look forward to greeting you in Bella Bella!

    1. swimgreatbear says:

      Elizabeth. It would be fantastic to meet you! I am headed to Bella Bella this coming weekend for a bit of a test swim. I hope to swim from Kevin Heneghan’s place to the pub in Shearwater. If I make it he said he would buy me a beer!

      If I do not see you over the weekend hope to see you in July.


  5. Clare Gomez Edington says:

    Dear dear Susan,
    With every wild marathon swim you do you inspire so many of us with MS. This latest Great Bear swim is hugely inspiring. Every time I go for a swim in a lake or Ocean, I think of you and your amazing bravery and commitment. Last week I was up at a writer’s workshop near Whistler and I took an early morning swim in Lake Alta with poet Elizabeth Bachinsky. It was, by Callum’s scale in Wild Swimming in Scotland ‘s scale, just ‘Aye Alright’ but I lasted about 20 minutes. And of course I thought of you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01KVj8kEjMo
    Next week, I’m go to do an early morning swim in Eagle lake which is decent now and I may also swim at the end of Montreal street on the east side of the breakwater. It is always a bit chilly there even in summer but I suspect nothing like where you are swimming in July from Ocean Falls to Bella Bella. I will never be able to do what you do but because of you I do more and because of you, I’m still walking. When you swam Cowichan lake, I walked the 6 Kilometres everyday to the Marilyn Bell marker as a way to be supportive and then came to watch you swim. This year as a way to focus my energy on your successful swim. I am going to get myself in shape to do a walking and swimming holiday by myself in Crete. To ready myself for this I do a strength work out 2 days a week. I host a 5-days a week early morning walking group for people with disabilities. And now that my separated shoulder is almost healed I am swimming 3 days. Tuesday I will start paddling OC6 one day a week and then in a month adding OC1 one day a week. Because of your the MS swim group you coached, I am able to swim comfortably again. I know that everyone who has MS and follows what you do is inspired to try to do more because of your courage and tenacity. Thanks Susan!!!

    1. swimgreatbear says:


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