Great Bear Sea swimmers rely on the unique skills of an incredible crew of volunteers. I am grateful to all of them. Without them the swim could not happen. Meet my crew:
FIRST NATION ADVISOR
Megan is a member of the Heiltsuk Nation and lives in her hometown of Bella Bella, BC. Growing up she spent much time with her family out on the ocean learning about her ancestral territory and Heiltsuk culture and traditions. Her Dad is a Heiltsuk hereditary chief and has actively protected wild salmon, herring stocks and stood up against clearcut logging.
Megan has just completed an Indigenous Tourism program through VIU and was part of a research team this past summer collecting information about sea otters in the Great Bear Rainforest. She continues to spend much of her time exploring new and familiar places. Her passion for protecting the lands and ocean emanates from her cultural roots and deep connection to this place she calls home.
Megan will provide insight into the Heiltsuk First Nation and the places of significance to them along the swim route, in particular Namu.
MJ has played a key-roll on all of Susan’s swims, including her first 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; all of her Cowichan Lake swims (35km, 70km and an attempted 105km); all of the Great Bear swims; and her recent swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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 Susan however she can. She has an amazing son, Nicolaas and two beautiful children, Sophie and Kesler. MJ wants to be a good example to them as to what you are able to accomplish in life. She wants to show them how supporting others is rewarding and gratifying and adds so much to your own life.
MJ will serve a dual role of Swim Director and Chief Observer. She will be responsible for making sure Susan has what is needed throughout the swim, that the swim follows the rules, and that it is correctly documented.
Claire has been a key support to Susan on the majority of swims. She is an extremely proficient paddler, and an outstanding athlete.
Claire has seen Susan through some very difficult times on Lake Cowichan during a 70km and attempted 105km swims. Last year Claire was beside Susan for 10 hours as she swam across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
She is adept at managing the psychological aspects of the swim and will be taking on the role of Swim Handler for the swim to Namu.
Don Tite lives on Denny Island and is a member of the Canadian Coast Guard, Marine Engineer 4th Class, Rescue Specialist. He has deep family roots on both Denny Island and in Bella Bella.
Don’s son “Trip” is the joy of his life and you will find Don is with him when ever possible.
Don is an incredible addition to the year’s crew. Hopefully Trip will also be able to spend time with us while we are at base-camp at Drifter’s Cove each night.
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 owns and operates an outboard shop, sawmill, and peaceful retreat with two hand crafted waterfront cabins and loft, 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.
Kevin has kindly donated his property to Susan each year she comes for a swim. He is keen to bring unique positive experiences to his community and help where he can. This year Kevin will pilot a support boat used to transport key crew members and provide refuge to kayakers needing a break.
One of our more recent discoveries about Kevin is that he held a record in backstroke as a youth swimmer.
Matt has been crewing for Susan since her first ultra-marathon swim across Lake Cowichan. He has played the role of pilot as well as secondary safety on both Susan’s lake and ocean swims. Two years-ago he played an instrumental role when stepping into the pilot’s 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.
Matt will serve as co-pilot to Keven and assist kayakers as they need breaks
Following in the footsteps of his father, Corey worked in the commercial fishing industry. His father fished in Namu for a number of years as part of the Japanese ‘Mosquito Fleet’, in the 70’s. Corey worked in the fishing industry out of Namu for several summers in the 90s long after it’s hay-day. He understands the impact industry has on the environment and has always struggled knowing that much of where he is today is a result of that involvement.
As a paddler Corey started competitive dragon boat/outrigger in Vancouver. He added marathon / white water, sprint and slalom disciplines to his paddle portfolio when he moved to Calgary to be a coach and guide and later coached slalom canoe and kayak and Japan . Corey’s next stop was Victoria where he became a sea kayak guide and coach, coordinating paddling events and training camps locally and internationally. He feels blessed to have paddled in many parts of the world.
Corey is deeply connected to the ocean with many of his friendships forged on the water. He is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Great Bear Swim and revisit some of the remote locations he once worked in and see how they have faired with time.
Ray is one of the key paddlers 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 ten years ago.
Ray crewed the Great Bear Swim from Ocean Falls to Bella Bella as well as Bella Bella through Lama Pass. He also crewed last year’s swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and all of Susan’s Cowichan Lake Swims.
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 and more recently the Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club.
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 helped recruit 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 Susan to the locals in Bella Bella and on Denny Island. 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.
Colette paddled beside Susan in 2017 as she swam down Lama Pass. She was instrumental in spotting whales and was the first to identify and respond to a humpback that was swimming directly below Susan.
With a background in swimming, paddling and sailing, Pam is a fantastic addition to this year’s crew.
Pam has been supporting Susan with her swims and the work she does in the Multiple Sclerosis community for several years. She first crewed for Susan on her initial Cowichan Lake swim where she kayaked and swim beside her for the second half of the swim. Last year she was instrumental in supporting Susan emotionally on her swim across Juan de Fuca Strait and provided kayak support the last 5 kilometers.
Lane mate to Susan at the Tyee Aquatic Club Masters Swims the two have swum hundreds of kilometers together over the years. Pam is also a physiotherapist who helps people with Multiple Sclerosis and keenly aware of the challenges Susan faces with MS.
“The salt is in my blood, I love working within my ancestral territory and the sea is my home! “
Born and raised in Bella Bella, Jordan is an incredible addition to my crew. He brings with him rich information about the region, his home and the traditional territory of his people, the Heiltsuk Nation.
Jordan has been working for Pacific Wild full-time for 2 years. He is also a member of the ‘Coastal Nations Search and Rescue’ and hopes to be a Canadian Coast Guard employee by the end of this year.
Jordan has always had a knack for photography and will photograph just about anything. He has been working as a (semi) professionally for about 2 years and will be capturing photographs and video throughout the swim. You can see some of Jordan’s photography on Instagram @the.timeless.group
Philip was born in Vancouver and has been lived in Bella Bella a good portion of his life. He has 4 beautiful children and is married to his beautiful wife, (but no dog). He has lived and worked everywhere in Bella Bella.
Philip’s photography interest started in high school and carried through to today. His favourite things to photograph are cultural events, weddings and community engagements. He started with his own studio at home and did some portrait photography via his home business “ Hold that pose.” When he started working with Jordan he was into a lot of different styles of photography eg. painting with light, double exposure, manipulation etc. He’s still trying to find a groove with video recording and is ambitious when it comes to projects like the Great Bear Swim.
I am super excited to have Philip as part of the crew and hope to spend some of my time out of the water getting to know him and has family.