It has been a little over a year since Swim Wild Squamish, the not-for-profit masters club dedicated to swimming outdoors in the Sea to Sky, made its first splash as a group in the spring of 2021.
It is going strong mid-way through this second summer season.
They currently have about 50 members.
In mid-July, seven members headed to Bowen Island for SwimBowen, an open water swim course of either 1,500 or 750 metres.
It was the first race that Swim Wild attended as a club.
"All of us are also [Squamish] Titans as well. So it was kind of fun to represent the Titans and Swim Wild," said Katie Coombs, one of the members who took to the waters — sans wet suit — for the Bowen event.
"The water was calm on the surface. Underneath was a whole other story," Coombs said, with a laugh. "And the water temperature was about 16.8 C, so it was chilly."
The Squamish club often swims at Alice Lake or Porteau Cove and the ocean off of Bowen was a different experience.
She noted the water in Squamish is 12 C or so, therefore much cooler than the ocean near Bowen.
"The water is actually a lot saltier at Bowen; the ocean in Squamish is a lot more [mixed with] river water and fresh water. So there's a difference, and then there's also the waves in the currents underneath as well that you have to deal with."
Coombs said at one point in the swim, she wondered why some people were off course and then realized she had travelled, not her fellow competitors.
"I realized that I was the one out in left field and they were swimming where they were supposed to be swimming," she said with a chuckle.
Like the other six Squamish participants, Coombs had signed up for the 1,500-metre, but opted for the 750 in the end as she had been sick in the hospital with an infection and is recovering from a concussion.
"My goal was to finish under 30 minutes and I did it in... 29:49.6. Considering I went from pretty much hospital bed to ocean... it was not my best, but considering what has gone on this year so far, it was a huge accomplishment for me."
She said the support for each other within Swim Wild is extraordinary.
Fellow swimmer Kay Levis, during her own race, took the time to encourage Coombs along the way.
“Even when she passed me on her second loop on her breath, she said, 'Good job, Katie.' And on her next breath, she said, 'Keep going,'" Coombs recalled.
"It gave me that motivation to keep going because it was hard."
For Coombs, SwimBowen was also meaningful because the money raised goes to cancer survivors.
The 2022 event raised $45,500 with just 62 participants.
"My uncle passed away [from] cancer in January. So I kind of did it in his honour this year," Coombs said, adding thinking about those with cancer helped her get through her swim when she was feeling weak.
"People who have cancer don't have that option to back out after five minutes. Like, they can't just say, 'Oh, you know, I don't like this. I'm just going to stop.’ Like, that's not an option for them. So then I was like, well, why is that an option for me?"
Swim Wild SwimBowen results
1,500 length: Mel Horner 27:38.3
1,500 length: Kay Levis 28:28.2
750 length: Katie Coombs 29:49.6
1,500 length: Jennifer Leigh 31:21.6
1,500 length: Maggie Georgy-Embree 32:33.0
1,500 length: Sarah Greenwood 33:08.6
1,500 length: Marlaina Rhymer 33:18.1
Next, Squamish club members are taking on an 'Ironman" swim at Brohm Lake.
It is 2.5 kilometres around the lake on Aug. 7
"It's basically you swim all the way down to the very end of Brohm and then all the way back," Coombs said.
The club welcomes new members of all abilities.
They swim on Tuesday evenings at Alice Lake and Saturday mornings at Porteau Cove. The first Sunday of each month, they swim at a random location.
"The last couple of weeks, we've had a lot of new people, which has gotten us super excited. It's exciting that people are still learning about the club, and people are still wanting to join and just how much interest there is in open water swimming," Coombs said.
The club is also always looking for more volunteer spotters who stay on shore during swims to help keep folks safe.
Find out more by going to Swim Wild Squamish on Facebook or swimwildsquamish.com.