Our Crew

Great Bear Sea swimmers rely on the unique skills of an incredible crew of volunteers. We are grateful to all of them. Without them the swim could not happen.

Meet our core crew:

Colette HeneghanDSC_0026

The woman behind it all! Susan approached Colette in November of 2015 with a dream. Colette, a good friend and a member of Pacific Wild, has helped make that dream come true. Colette brings a wealth of local knowledge to the swim and has recruited a number of the volunteers who will be out there on the water with us as well as many on shore. She has been supporting the team with this epic expedition by helping plan the route, introducing them to the locals in Bella Bella, on Denny Island and most importantly in Ocean Falls. She has worked tirelessly at promoting the swim in her community in the Great Bear Rain Forest as well as online through the use of social media.

Born in Langley B.C., Colette now lives between Victoria since 2004 and Denny Island the Great Bear Rainforest.

DSC_0021Kevin Heneghan

Kevin came to the project through his sister Colette. For the last 20 years he has been living on Denny Island in the Great Bear Rainforest where he works as a mechanic and owns and operates a peaceful retreat with two hand crafted waterfront cabins, a private dock, a whale watching deck and a cedar sauna. He has been  boating in the region for many years.

Kevin has wholeheartedly agreed to take on the role of Pilot, but after meeting him we quickly realized he brings far more to the swim then we ever could have asked for. On our initial trip to Ocean Falls from Bella Bella not only did he identify several spots with currents we could take advantage of, he also offered to pitch our tents and have a warming fire ready for when we exit the water.

One of our more recent discoveries about Kevin is that he  held a record in backstroke as a youth swimmer.

225711_10150729709250294_2377768_nMJ VanBergen

MJ will serve a dual role as Safety Lead and Chief Observer. She has been the lead safety on a number of Susan’s swims including her fist ocean swim from West Vancouver to English Bay where she encountered a gray whale along the way; a woman’s relay across the Strait of Georgia; and all of her Cowichan Lake swims (35km, 70km and an attempted 105km). In addition to the Great Bear Swim she will also be the lead safety for Susan, Dale, Jill and Aly with their Swim For Peace in August of this year.

MJ loves being on or near the water and is amazed by the determination and dedication of Susan. As her friend she wants to support her however she can. She has an amazing son, Nicolaas, who is married to a wonderful lady, Erin, and they have two beautiful children, Sophie and Kesler. She wants to be a good example for all of them as what you are able to accomplish in life and how supporting others is rewarding and gratifying and adds so much to your own life.

Matt Piechnik

Matt will serve as co-pilot to Keven and will assist MJ with safety.  Matt has been crewing for Susan for 4 years. He has played the role of pilot as well as secondary safety on both Susan’s lake and ocean swims. Last year he played an instrumental role when stepping in to the pilots position during some of the rougher waters in Great Bear.

As a life-long resident of Lake Cowichan he has been on boats most of his life and has been piloting motorized craft for over 20 years.  He comes to the swim with VOP, MED A3, ROC-M and Advanced Marine First Aid.

189247_10150455323725294_3721747_nRay Este

Ray will be the lead paddler for the Great Bear Swim. He is a well know personality in the open water community in Victoria, particularly Thetis Lake where he paddles for Susan as she swims laps around the lake. He has been paddling for her since she began open water swimming eight years ago.

Ray’s first human powered boating experience was as a young boy on Lac St. Jean, Quebec, where he rowed his Auntie Lillian around the lake each summer. Much later in life, while living in North Vancouver, BC, Ray took up kayaking spending his summers exploring the gulf islands. Soon after moving to Victoria he discovered Outrigger Canoeing and became a member of Ocean River Paddle Club where he paddles Victoria’s inner harbour and surrounding waters on a regular basis.