Spirit Bear swimmers Ben Vanlierop (from right), Susan Simmons, Dixon McGowan and Meliah Motchman complete an eight-week, 80-kilometre swim at Esquimalt Lagoon on Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

Spirit Bear swimmers Ben Vanlierop (from right), Susan Simmons, Dixon McGowan and Meliah Motchman complete an eight-week, 80-kilometre swim at Esquimalt Lagoon on Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

Eight-week, 80-kilometre swim ends at Esquimalt Lagoon

Spirit Orcas faced strong currents in last leg of COVID-19 relief fundraiser

A small group of swimmers finished an eight-week, 80-kilometre swim at the Esquimalt Lagoon Sunday afternoon.

The Spirit Orcas, a group of athletes with developmental disabilities, have been propelling their way to complete what they’ve dubbed ‘The Great Big Swim’ – single-day swims of 10-kilometres each week since the beginning of June.

The journey that began in Brentwood Bay ended on the Colwood waterfront just after 3 p.m. Sunday to the resounding cheers of onlookers and supporters.

The group was accompanied by a fleet of volunteer kayakers, a small motor craft and a sailboat.

“We’ve had bunches of seals, jellyfish, and really cold water through this whole series of swims,” said Susan Simmons, ultra-marathon swimmer and coach. “Today, we faced the current pushing us backwards. Swimming felt like a hamster on a wheel, for a while, but it all worked out.”

Simmons is a local Victorian well-known for swimming from Port Angeles to Victoria, across the Haro Strait and other ultra-marathon swims.

All money raised from this swim will head to the Victoria Foundation’s relief efforts for local charities and non-profits.

“I didn’t expect this many swimmers to last, especially for so long,” Simmons said. “It’s impressive. This is proof that if someone wants to accomplish something, don’t say no, just jump in.”

Simmons hopes to get the swimmers training for next year to take on the Georgia Strait.

– with files from Nina Grossman

READ MORE: Victoria swimmer with down syndrome completes 5-kilometre Thetis Lake swim

ALSO READ: Spirit Orca swimmers ready for next challenge


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The Spirit Orcas, a group of swimmers with developmental disabilities, completed their eight-week, 80-kilometre swim to raise funds for COVID-19 relief on Sunday afternoon at Esquimalt Lagoon. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

The Spirit Orcas, a group of swimmers with developmental disabilities, completed their eight-week, 80-kilometre swim to raise funds for COVID-19 relief on Sunday afternoon at Esquimalt Lagoon. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)