Skip to content

Dream big, listen well for good things to happen: SwimBowen

Instead of the usual SwimBowen event, Mary Letson and her friends have been swimming the distance around Bowen – 32 km – in bite-sized portions. Their finale swim is Saturday July 17 at 5:30 p.m. from Tunstall Bay to Bowen Bay

This summer, a few friends and I are logging our ocean swims to reach 32km (the distance around Bowen Island) to raise awareness and funds for the SwimBowen Cancer Care Fund. 

Our finale swim is Saturday July 17 at 5:30 p.m. from Tunstall Bay to Bowen Bay. Sound daunting? So overwhelming that you might decide not to bother? In fact it’s been entirely achievable and would you believe even fun (in a Mary kind of way). It’s that magic combination for achieving a big project: set a specific goal, break said goal into bite-sized pieces and then schedule the commitment, sense of satisfaction and joy over a manageable period of time with like-minded buddies. I likely wouldn’t have bothered squeezing into my wetsuit and tromping down through the chill to get my swims in on those rainy afternoons in early May if I didn’t have buddies counting on me to show up. 

Like anything, there have been many turns in the road to arrive at this summer’s 32km swim goal and I’ve learned so much along the way. I remember the day eight years ago when I suggested to my family that I put on a swim event to raise funds for Bowen Islanders in cancer treatment. I had finished my chemotherapy and was feeling triumphant and relieved knowing that I had made it through the toughest part. Only radiation to go – woot – woot! It is a remarkable human condition that allows our mind to stretch, grow, and imagine when our physical body is less willing. My mind whirled with the possibilities of donors sponsoring a swim event that took us around the entire Bowen coastline in sections. I pondered this epic project and realized that building an event so close to my recovery was perhaps not the wisest move. That perhaps resting and rebuilding my own personal project was the priority, not just for me – but for my family too. Five years went by, and with my strength and resilience back on deck, I continued to dip my toe into the big “Round Bowen Swim” idea, pitching to anyone willing to listen. A pragmatic friend suggested I switch gears and make it a one-day event in Tunstall Bay.

It could raise as much money or more, allow for a great gathering and sense of togetherness to celebrate ocean swimming all while supporting wellness for our community. Brilliant. Why hadn’t I thought of that? One swim on one day. We could make that happen.

And indeed we did, creating a bigger and better event over two years than I could have dreamed. 

Like last summer, we find ourselves again unable to host an official SwimBowen event, so I went back to the Round Bowen Swim idea to complete with a few friends. We started to hammer out a plan for safe and accessible entry and exits along the coastline, how to coordinate safety marshals and their paddleboards and kayaks, and how to align swimmer and tide schedules all while considering variable weather conditions. It was feeling very complicated. Again, I wasn’t sure. Thankfully Michelle Johnson, another pragmatic colleague and SwimBowen Cancer Care Fund director, suggested we simplify the event by logging our swims over the course of the summer with the goal of reaching 32km – the total distance around Bowen. Brilliant! Why hadn’t I thought of that? 

My swim friends and I are close to reaching that 32km mark, in fact a few of us have surpassed the goal! Join us on the beach as we culminate our “Round Bowen Swim Unevent” with a 1,600 metre jaunt from Tunstall to Bowen Bay on Saturday July 17, departing from Tunstall Bay at 5:30 p.m., arriving at Bowen Bay approximately 40 minutes later to celebrate our swim, our donors, sponsors and ultimately supporting Bowen Islanders going through cancer treatment. SwimBowen keeps showing me that most anything is possible if you dream big, listen well, and trust that with your heart in the right place good things will happen.