A record 1,200 entrants will take to the waters of Okanagan Lake on Saturday morning for the 67th edition of the Across the Lake Swim.
The 2.1 km swim, which begins at the Old Ferry Docks in West Kelowna and ends at Hot Sands Beach in City Park, has nearly doubled in size since 2013 when 650 swimmers took part.
“In 2013 we changed the event from just a race to more of a family event, or a bucket list type of event so that really anyone feels like they can take part,” said Across the Lake race director, Peter Rudd. “The elite swimmers who still want to compete and race, that’s still available to them, but it’s more of an inclusive event now.
“This year we sold out and capped it at 1,200.”
Most of the 900 swimmers in last year’s Across the Lake Swim encountered some unusually harsh conditions when a seiche wave rolled through the lake just 20 minutes after the start of the race.
Hundreds swimmers were blown off course and finished with much slower times than expected, while rescue crews had to pull another 200 people out of the water.
In the end, all swimmers came out of the water unharmed.
With any luck, Rudd said the conditions will be much more cooperative this weekend.
“It tested our safety plan and we were actually quite pleased with how it all came off, considering the circumstances,” said Rudd. “(A seiche wave) happens, it’s not unusual, but knock on wood we’ll have a much nicer day this year. If it does happen, we’ll be ready.”
The Westbank First Nation has provided significant improvements to the start line over past years. Swimmers will have direct access to the start from the jetty at the end of Old Ferry Wharf Road, as well as four permanent anchors in the water for the start line corral.
Swimmers will be sent off in 10 waves of 120 participants, beginning at 8 a.m.
Meanwhile, funds raised each year by the Across the Lake Swim Society are used in part to help youngsters in the Central Okanagan learn essential water skills.
In a joint effort with the YMCA, close to 1,400 Grade 3 students are provided with free swim lessons each year.
“Swimming is a life saving skill, so it’s nice to be able to provide that to children here,” Rudd said. “They’re not going to become championship swimmers because of it, but it does teach them life-saving skills, like floating and treading water.”
For more information, visit acrossthelakeswim.com