Osoyoos Lake is Canada’s warmest lake and is found in the country’s only true desert. The area is home to the hottest, driest climate and is a place we have visited many times. The city of Osoyoos is a place where we have camped, swam, and sometimes just passed through to get to the Canada-USA border.
February 2013 was one of those times Angelique and I were passing through the city, heading down to Omak in Washington State, USA to meet friends for dinner and an overnight stay. As we drove by Osoyoos Lake I found myself thinking aloud “I wonder if it’s possible to swim across the border?” “How cool would that be to swim from USA to Canada?” I asked the US border guards if it was possible and even if they knew who I would have to contact to maybe get permission. I was given the contact details of the Area Port Director in Seattle, I wrote to them but got no reply. This, I later found out, was the first of many dead ends.
I put the idea on the back burner and gave the USA-Canada swim little or no thought as the excitement, frustration and confusion of the Bering Strait relay swim took over my life for the next few months. Until last August that is.
You see, a seed had been planted during that February crossing and the idea started to blossom again as the summer came to a close. But of course I still had no idea who I would need to speak to, to get permission so I decided to go with plan B and write to everybody I could think of in a position of authority that could either themselves help or at least point me in the right direction.
The list included: City officials, Politicians, Senators, Governors even the BC Premier and the Canadian Prime Minister but all to no avail. I just came up with more dead ends with lots of ‘Sorry we can’t help but good luck’ replies.
I guess somewhere along the way though the news trickled down to the right person. I was eventually contacted by Alan Profili, Canadian Border Services Chief of Operations in Osoyoos who mentioned during our first telephone conversation he had seen me on the news completing my 2012 ice swim. Right from that first telephone conversation Chief Profili and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) have been nothing but supportive of this swim even though they said it was ‘a very unusual request’ and of course they have been vital to getting this project off the ground. I also eventually made contact with the Department of US Customs and Border Protection in Oroville, who themselves are a department of Homeland Security. I can tell you I was pretty nervous making that phone call but I needn’t have been. I spoke with Chief Arrigoni who heard me out and gave me the green light. AWESOME!
Sounds easy now I am writing it down but, it had taken me until May of this year to get this far.
In the early planning stages I’d briefly toyed with the idea of inviting a US swimmer to swim south from Canada-USA and for me to swim north from USA-Canada but the logistics of a dual swim looked a little too complicated, so a solo swim it is. I strongly believe that a swim between these two cities has never been attempted before. During my research I found only one reference of somebody doing something similar. In 2012 Okanagan swimmer Daryl Ellis was planning to swim a 200 mile staged swim of the Okanagan lakes his plan was to swim the length of Okanagan Lake, Skaha Lake and swim to the US border on Osoyoos lake.
I tracked down Mr Ellis and asked him for details of his swim. Did it go ahead? Did he swim to the border and back or did he swim from Canadian soil to US soil. His reply was vague at best and didn’t really answer any of my questions.
Earlier this year Angelique and I spent some time in Osoyoos and Oroville scouting out the swim route, which will take us up the western shoreline before crossing the lake at Haynes Point were there is a narrow channel at the end of a sand bar leading into the northern end of the lake. I also did a test swim from Haynes Point to the US Border.
USA to the right of the wall, Canada to the left.
For my own attempt I will be supported on the lake by two kayakers and a support vehicle following our progress by road. The lake and road teams will be in radio contact during the swim and hopefully tweeting and posting status updates throughout the day. The swim distance between Oroville, USA and Osoyoos, Canada is approx. 12 km which will take me around 4-5 hrs to complete and will be conducted under English Channel rules. Wearing just a swim cap, goggles, and swim trunks. No wetsuit, nothing that will aide flotation, swim speed or heat retention. Once the swim starts there will be no intentional physical contact with persons or boat. The stop watch will start as I walk into the lake in Oroville and will stop when I exit the water in Osoyoos. During my training this summer I have done many 3, 4 and 5 hour swims, I have done 7,8, 9 and 11 km swims, in fact I have swam further and longer than I ever thought I could in preparation for the Oroville to Osoyoos Cross Border Swim. I know that if I am patient and manage the swim properly that I am very capable of completing this swim. I also know that with the team of Angelique , Ashley and Phred I am in very good hands.
Hopefully it will a great day and a lot of fun for everybody involved.
Weather permitting we will be starting from Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park, Oroville, USA sometime between 10-11am on Sept 6th and all being well, finishing at Gyro Park, Osoyoos, Canada later that afternoon.
During a conversation about the swim with a friend recently they asked if the water would be cold, when I told them that Osoyoos Lake is Canada’s warmest lake they said ” Oh you are doing something sensible this time are you”
In the last week the the swim has taken on a little more personal significance as on Sept 11th I will be officially sworn in as a Canadian Citizen.