Early Sunday morning, 44 endurance swimmers waded into the choppy Northumberland Strait waters and proceeded to swim 14 kilometres alongside the Confederation Bridge.
Paige Crowell, 25, was the only swimmer from P.E.I. who took part in the ninth annual Big Swim, hosted by the charity Give to Live.
“I kept my head down for most of the swim, but while I was arriving towards the wharf (at the end of Beach Road in Borden-Carleton), I couldn’t help but look up and think, ‘It’s so cool to be swimming home',” said the Charlottetown resident who took second place.
“It feels great coming in second. I honestly just wanted to be tired when I finished, so I didn’t really have a goal. But when I looked up and saw only Tyler (Immel-Herron) ahead of me, I thought, ‘sweet’, because I was doing so much better than anticipated,” she said.
One, two, three, were the repeated words that kept Crowell motivated from the start at Cape Jourimain, N.B., to the red shores of the Island – in under four hours.
The average swimmer takes six hours to complete the strait crossing, says Heather McGrath, the event director.
Crowell said having the right technique helped.
“Some people sing, but I just count repeatedly to three with my strokes, and remind myself to keep them long, so my muscles don’t give out.”
The Big Swim raised more than $160,000 for Brigadoon Village summer camp in the Annapolis Valley.
“Over the years to date, $1.3 million has been raised for the charity,” said McGrath.
Tyler Immel-Herron, 22, took first place in the strait crossing, but Mother Nature wasn’t always on his side.
“The water is surprisingly warm, and the first part of the swim was very easy because it felt like the waves were pushing me. But halfway it got really choppy and towards the end it felt like I was tumbling in a washing machine,” said the resident of Cobourg, Ont.
This is Immel-Herron’s second time completing the strait crossing; in 2014 he took third place.
“At least once or twice a day for the past year I’ve trained for this swim,” said Immel-Herron, who raised $2,000 for Brigadoon and had a crew of 10 supporting from P.E.I.’s shoreline.
“Plus, my step-mother is out there doing the swim.”
Crowell raised $1,700 for Brigadoon (www.brigadoonvillage.org), so kids with a health condition or other life challenge can have the same right to an amazing camp experience.
“I didn’t know much about Brigadoon before I signed up to cross the strait, but I learned shortly after about this incredible organization and it made the whole swim meaningful knowing I was participating in a worthy cause,” said Crowell.
“I just want to thank Give to Live who organized the Big Swim, all the volunteers, (55) kayakers, supporters waiting patiently on the shoreline and the swimmers, because each one plays a huge part in making this fundraiser an incredible success."