Renate Herberger is no stranger to the chilly water of the Saanich Inlet.
The distance swimmer and co-director of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) has swum the 16.5-kilometre distance four times since 2011 to raise awareness for marine conservation and honour the memory of her late son, Silvan Skye Valeska Herberger, who died at 23 years old shortly after her first Inlet swim.
And now, heading into swim No. 5, Herberger says the need to raise awareness of rapidly deteriorating ocean environments is as pertinent as ever.
“It’s in part, raising awareness for people to know that whatever you bring, wherever you go, especially to a beach – make sure you take it with you,” Herberger said. “There isn’t a fairy godmother who comes after you.”
This year’s swim raises funds to support the SIPS beach-clean-up program, which has in the last year alone completed nine shore clean-ups around the Saanich Peninsula, “removing over 1,700 kilograms of plastics, metals, bottles, cans, boat parts, domestic refuse and garden waste.”
“It’s amazing to think that in 2019 we still have to raise awareness,” Herberger said. “Now of course, we know so much more about microplastics. More and more information is coming out. [The swim] is just to teach people to live more lightly, use less packaging. Bring your sandwiches in a jar and take it home.”
Herberger, who has swum over 8,200 kilometres in her lifetime, and has swam in the inlet since she moved to North Saanich in 1986, says she is still a “chicken when it comes to cold water.”
In fact, Herberger’s latest swims were in Mexico.
“I much prefer warm water swims, so this one is for me, the most difficult of all the swims I do,” she said. “I’m not good with cold water and I need a pretty serious wet suit. It’s much more demanding.”
Herberger will swim the length of the Inlet – starting at Brentwood Bay in Central Saanich and finishing at Deep Cove in North Saanich. She is still looking for support and escort boat volunteers. The swim requires escorts in kayaks, row boats and other non-motorized vessels for all or a portion of the route.
The swim departs Pacifica’s dock in the Portside Marina to the right of the ferry dock at the foot of Verdier Avenue on Aug. 5 at 9 a.m.
For more information about volunteering as a support or escort boat, email firstname.lastname@example.org.