It will be a little more of a challenge this year, but the 69th annual Okanagan Lake Across the Lake Swim is still scheduled to go July 15, say organizers.
“We are watching conditions closely,” said race director Peter Rudd. “The lake height doesn’t affect swimming much as it’s still water, just a little deeper. The beaches are always filled with debris this time of year and there is very little debris floating in the lake.”
That appears to contradict what flood and boating officials have been saying for the past several weeks as they have warned boaters of an excess of debris in the lake, particularly floating just below the surface.
The 2.1-kilometre swim event between West Kelowna and Kelowna is Canada’s largest and longest running open water swim and this year will have more than 1,200 participants. The same group organizers another popular Okanagan Lake swim event, the annual Rattlesnake Island Race. That event is slated for Aug. 5 in Peachland and will have close to 300 participants, double from previous years.
Rudd said organizers of the Across The Lake Swim have been working to ensure both a respectful use of the lake during the current flooding, as well as safety for all participants and volunteers.
Boaters have been asked to stay off the lake during the flooding because the wakes created by power boats can cause waves that could cause additional lakeshore erosion and flooding.
“We do use support boats and paddlers during our two events later in the summer, but these boats will not create any harmful wakes as they always go very slowly to not affect the swimmers” said Rudd.
He added the current water temperature is slightly warmer than average for the start of the open water swimming season in Kelowna.
“By the time of our first event on July 15, lake levels are expected to decrease. So, the current conditions don’t really affect our events or clinics,” he added.
On Monday, Emergency Operations Centre director Ron Mattiussi said while he expects the level of the lake to peak at 343.5 metres by the middle of this month, it could be a few months before the level subsides substantially.
The Across The Lake Swim is a popular event that draws many swimmers from outside of the community.
Rudd said the swim is now nearly sold out for participants, which is good news for local businesses and sponsors, many of whom benefit from such tourism-related events in the summer.
On Monday, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said he was aware some tourism-dependent businesses have taken a hit as a result of the flooding and he is sympathetic.
But he said the situation is in the hands of Mother Nature and he expects the lake level to increase more before it levels off and starts to recede.