My favourite waterbody the one I want to talk about today is Lake Ontario.
It’s significant to me because I grew up in Waterloo, a landlocked city and moved to Toronto to go to university and I’ve lived in Toronto now for over 25 years or so. I’m a pool swimmer, been a pool swimmer my whole life and this was, I guess, 6 or 7 years ago a group of us, a group of friends, many of you’ve probably had this experience. You’re up at the cottage and think, hey, I can swim from there to there and we swam probably one or two kilometres in a lake up in Northern Ontario, super dark water and it was at that point I realized, I’d actual had a lifelong fear of dark water and therefore never really enjoyed open water swimming. That particular day when we swam from one cottage to the next, I realized the fear had gone. It was probably a childhood fear I’d had that had just sort of stayed with me but as your get older - the only thing I’m scared of now is something happening to my family, I realized actually I was intrigued, I enjoyed it.
We all decided it’s a real pity that we have to go up to Northern Ontario to swim in the lake so we started on Google Earth looking for places along the Toronto coastline where we could swim and we found the south side of Toronto Island. A good friend of mine, Bill Pool and I, we went out there, this would have been 2012 I guess, and we swam from Ward’s Island to the Centre Island Pier. That place, when it’s crystal clear you can see it’s nothing but sand, there’s no vegetation. It’s beautiful, it’s never more than 10 feet deep. We swam in about 12 or 13 degree [Celsius] water from Ward’s Island to the Centre Island Pier, it was 2.2 km, incredible. We thought, we know so many people that would love to have this experience, so we started the Toronto Island Lake Swim in 2013, we just finished our 5th year. We’ve had over 1300-1400 swimmers come out and swim in Lake Ontario and we think it’s really important to raise awareness of how important it is to keep the freshwater lakes clean. Toronto gets so much of its drinking water from Lake Ontario. So many people still have a reaction, especially from my generation, “Oh my God, you must be glowing green if you’re swimming in Lake Ontario.” They have this impression of it being dirty and although it’s making a comeback, it’s cleaner then its been in a long time, we have to protect it.
We partnered with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, now Swim Drink Fish and I started my personal journey of learning about importance and by-laws and the great work that they’re doing and we hope to continue doing the Toronto Island Swim for years and years to come. I was here today on the shores of lake Ontario again on this crisp fall day and did a 4.5 km swim and remember how I’ve just began my journey too to becoming an open water swimmer and I love the lake I live on, Lake Ontario. So get out and swim in water ever lake you can. Cheers