Society

Swimming pools closed? Try the ocean.

That's what some Vancouverites were inspired to do to get their fix during the COVID-19 lockdown, learning open-water swimming at Jericho Beach

With pools closed some swimmers have turned to open water swimming (Photo by Jimmy Jeong)

With pools closed some swimmers have turned to open water swimming (Photo by Jimmy Jeong)

After COVID-19 led to the closure of pools in Vancouver, some passionate swimmers turned elsewhere for their fix—the open sea surrounding the city. Instructor Stewart Scott saw high demand for his open-water swim classes, held at Jericho Beach, against the background of a looming Cypress Mountain, with all spots selling out in just 15 minutes. One of those lucky new ocean swimmers is Tina Pali, a 64-year-old retired elementary school teacher who was regularly swimming indoors twice a week and had been hoping to join ocean swimming classes since last year. But when the lockdown began, it meant the ocean or nothing. “The virus confirmed my desire, [which went] from ‘hopefully’ to ‘come hell or high water’—no pun intended,” she says. Swimming in the ocean is quite different from swimming in a pool—for instance, you must mind the direction of the current, raise your arms high in the air to clear waves and be sure to keep your eye on something in the distance, such as a buoy or an anchored boat, to make up for the lack of a guiding black line on a pool floor, she explains. (These strategies are well-known to triathletes, such as the one pictured here, who routinely train and compete in open water.) A cardinal rule is that you must never swim alone. (Not-so-watchful herons, like the one in this photo, don’t count.) “My favourite aspect of ocean swimming is feeling young and joyful,” says Pali. “In my head I’m saying, ‘Wheeeee!’ ”