Standing on a dock at the edge of Banfield Park, it’s easy to see why Caleb Kennedy enjoys swimming in the Gorge Waterway.
On this Tuesday afternoon he and his children Cairo, 15, and Autumn, 18, and some half a dozen others are gathered at water’s edge. The sun beats down on them and the smell of salt water is calming.
It’s a feeling Kennedy has become used to having swam in the Gorge for the past 395 straight days.
“When I go swimming I feel great. If you’ve had a stressed-out day, you’re grumpy, you go for a swim and it feels a little better,” said the Vic West resident. He’s raising awareness of the waterway as a clean place to swim as part of this Sunday’s (July 30) sixth annual Gorge Swim Fest.
“I love that you can swim out there and look out and there’s trees on the Gorge; harbour ferries pass by and wave at you. It feels like I could be in Mexico or Costa Rica, but here I am in my hometown.”
Having grown up next to a river, Kennedy developed a passion for swimming. It but it wasn’t last summer when he decided to do something he hadn’t done since childhood: go for a swim every single day. He walked down to the dock every afternoon and dove in, often paddling out to the middle of the Gorge.
As the weather grew cooler, Cairo bet his dad he couldn’t go for a swim every day until New Years – a bet Kennedy gladly accepted. Living so close to the Gorge, there was no excuse not to go for a swim every day.
“I felt great so I thought, ‘why not keep going?’” he said, adding he often sees seals and heron on his swims. “I thought why not go a year, and now a year has passed and I’m not going to stop now. It’s become routine for us (his family).”
Kennedy is one of many advocates bringing attention to the Gorge Waterway and the importance of protecting the ecosystem as part of the Swim Fest.
The event is open to anyone and includes live music, food trucks, historical presentations and crafts for kids.
“It’s the cleanest water, it’s the warmest water and it’s the closest water for most people. We want people to come down and see what a jewel it is and help protect it,” said Gorge Swim Fest Society president Jack Meredith, who has swam here for the past decade.
To give swimmers up-to-date conditions, thermometers have been installed to monitor water temperatures at Banfield Park, the St. Michaels University School Rowing Centre and the Gorge Nature House in Esquimalt. The numbers are posted hourly at gorgeswimfest.ca.
The Gorge Swim Fest takes place at Banfield Park from noon to 4 p.m. Check the website for more information.