English Channel swimmer circumnavigating Bowen today

Starting about midday, Jessi Harewicz is going to take to the water for a 14 to 16 hour marathon swim around the island.

When you step outside this morning and feel the fall chill, pulling your jacket a little closer to your body, think about Jessi Harewicz.

Today, she's going to swim around Bowen. 

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The ultramarathon swimmer from Vancouver has spent the last few years honing her sport. In 2017 Harewicz swam the 33.7 km of the English Channel. This July she swam the 33 km of the Catalina Channel in southern California. Next year Harewicz plans on swimming the 45.8 km around Manhattan to complete the triple crown of open water swimming. 

But for this month, Harewicz’s sights are set a little closer to home. Starting about 11 a.m. Monday and heading north, Harewicz, 36, is going to circumnavigate the island wearing just a bathing suit and swim cap, escorted by an always nearby pilot boat. 

Though there are a few different kinds of open water swimming, the official channel swim, and the swimming Harewicz practices, allows only for a swimsuit and cap (no wetsuits and nothing that offers thermal protection or buoyancy.)  

“Its such a different sport (than swimming with a wetsuit),” says Harewicz. “Until you try it yourself, you’ll never understand how different it is.

“Channel swimming is mostly mental,” she says. “You have to be good at being alone.” 

Harewicz says she’s wanted to swim around Bowen for a few years. Planning from her training waters in Kitsilano, she’s swam to and around nearly everything she could see (without putting herself in danger), except Bowen. 

“It’s a noble swim,” says Harewicz. “Every swim is hard, no matter what. It’s just a different challenge.”

With an expected time of 14 to 16 hours, the swim around Bowen has been done before, but it’s not one of the better known challenges. 

Harewicz, though, is thinking of it as the beginning of a series of swims. She’d like to swim around all the Howe Sound Islands, some of which haven’t been officially been recorded as having been circumnavigated. 

“These are such local swims and we can do them all,” she says. 

Eventually, Harewicz would like to mentor other marathon swimmers. 

“You don’t have to see nature by hiking. [Swimming] gives you such a different perspective,” she says. 

“It’s opened a whole new world. Especially in B.C. where the water is relatively protected.”

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