How fitting that 55 swimmers — that’s up by 11 from last year — took to the brine down by Four Pole Beach with family, friends and random spectators cheering them on from shore Sunday, for the 55th annual Qualicum Beach Ocean Mile Swim.
It is the longest running annual event on Vancouver Island, and for the volunteers that keep it going, the payoff is days like the one they had Sunday.
“Oh yeah … the day was beautiful,” longtime swim volunteer and booster Doug Taylor said after the seaweed had settled.
“I mean it was much the same as last year but people were saying it was even better. The water was warm, there were no jelly fish … it attracted quite a crowd,” he chuckled.
In the end, it was a couple of Ravensong Aquatic Centre (RAC) Breakers that were first out of the water on Sunday, with Angus McGibbon posting the fastest time at 22 minutes and 12 seconds, and right on his heels as in five seconds behind, was Haley Bennett at 22:17.
“It was good,” Hayley, 12, surmised nonplussed and looking like she’d just got back from a quick dip.
The Breakers’ swim team, she said, do some open water training and added this was her third year swimming the QBOMS.
For those following along at home, it takes 64 lengths at Ravensong Aquatic Center to swim a mile (40 lengths for a kilometre).
In other local results, Haley’s dad Shawn Bennett was the fastest in the open category (wetsuits) at 22:34.
Mercedes MacDougall finished in 25:33 for first in the field of 19-25 year olds. Peter Poland kept the Poland name on the podium, finishing first in the 50-64 year old category in 30:05.
Qualicum Beach mayor Teunis Westbroek was in the mix completing the swim (without a wet suit) in one of the largest categories, the 12-swimmer 50-64 age group, in a time of 47:10.
Ten-year-old Ethan Standard from Qualicum Bay was the youngest finisher this year. Gerry Britton, 72, from Bowser was the oldest.
As always, the OMS had entries from all over the Island and even the mainland. Steve McFaden, here on holidays from Australia, was the swimmer from the furthest away and finished in 30:12.
Watching on from the sidelines Sunday as she often does was Betty Breakwell, one of the co-founders of the Ocean Mile Swim 55 years ago.
“She was also the one that introduced the Red Cross water safety swimming lessons to our local children down at the beach front 60 years ago,” OMS organizer and RDN aquatic programmer Anne Porteous said after.
“It was a fantastic day — I’d say top five for weather in the 11 years I’ve been doing it, and the bonus was it wasn’t windy. It was just an all-round great day,” she said, adding, “the spectators were wonderful … it’s just an excellent, fun family event that encourages active participation in our community, and I thought that was just awesome having 55 swimmers on the 55th year.”