A number of local swimmers recently braved cold water and strong currents to finish the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna on July 19. The swimmers were among 900 competitors who attempted to swim across Okanagan Lake near the William R. Bennett Bridge.
At the best of times the 2.1km is challenging but the 2014 version was even more so with strong currents pushing swimmers off course.
Despite the difficult conditions, four members of the Grand Forks Piranhas Swim Club finished the swim as did five other local residents.
Piranhas coaches Robyn Van Ek and Nicole Nuyten swam side by side and both finished with a time of 57 minutes good for 10th in their respective categories (Robyn – Female 20-29, Nicole – Female 10-19).
Another Piranha coach, Doug Van Ek, finished 8th in the Male 10-19 category with a time of 43:01.
For Nuyten, assistant coach of the Piranhas club, this was her second race and she said it was much harder than the first one.
“Last year was our first open water swim,” she said. “Our goal was just to finish the race. As competitive swimmers we rely on the line (on the bottom of the pool) to swim straight, so we thought staying on course would be challenging enough. After finishing the race last year, we felt that we could have swum much faster.”
With the conditions in the lake this year, Nuyten and her fellow coaches were just happy to finish the race, especially with over 200 swimmers having to be pulled out of the lake.
“Last year the water was calm and warm,” she said. “This year it was extremely windy in the middle of the lake. The waves were pretty bad and there was a pretty strong current to fight against.”
Nuyten said they didn’t wear wet suits as the water was warm the previous year and they had no problem.
“Last year we swam fine without them, but this year the water was much colder (21 degrees),” she said. “A few people were even pulled out of the water with hypothermia. The distance from start to finish is 2,100M, but the current caused us to swim off course. The race crew suspected we swam over three kilometres.”
Also finishing the lake swim was Piranha swimmer Ethan Argue, who finished 14th out of 33 in his category (Male 10-19) with a time of 59:01.
Robyn, head coach of the Piranhas, said that Argue and Nuyten have been training hard and pushing each other throughout the Piranha season.
“They swam the (lake) race after completing two intensive weeks of training,” said Robyn. “I am very fortunate to coach these two. They are very hard workers and provide support to their teammates when the going gets tough.”
The Piranha swimmers are now training hard getting ready for the regional championships in Trail on Aug. 2/3.
Other local finishers were:
Mathew Gray, Male 20-29, 3rd out of 25
Jim Grey, Male 70-79, 5th out of 12
Jennifer O’Brien, Female 30-39, 51st out of 93
Sandra Dorgelo, Female, 40-49, 13th out of 141
Melina Hoodle, Female 30-39, 52nd of 93
The phenomenom affecting the lake was either attributed to something called a sieche wave, which is a stationary wave in a body of water caused by a change in atmospheric pressure, seismic activity or wind; or to an angry lake monster, Ogopogo.
An article from Across the Lake, stated: “We came up with a theory. The strong and sustained winds running parallel along the long, narrow shape of the lake days prior to and the morning of the swim created a current running north. The narrow point of the lake where the swim occurs (near the big bridge) focused the wave/current to be stronger there.
“The bridge itself further narrowed the opening, increasing its velocity. This Seiche wave pushed the swimmers north up the lake.”
The other theory, the one saying that someone ticked off “fictional” lake monster Ogopogo, is a little harder to prove.