Courtesy of Susan Simmons, Great Bear Rain Forest, California.

Susan Simmons has attempted back-to-back distance swims over the past few years despite being wracked with multiple sclerosis. “I’ve been in recovery mode over the winter. The wear of the two big swims over the past few years has accumulated and made it difficult for me to train.

I found myself doing a lot less than in the past – which has been difficult. That’s not to say I have given up. I think I have just had to learn to train a bit different.”

But starting on June 20th, Simmons will get back into it. This year, she will be up in Canada’s Great Bear Rain Forest. “I will be continuing the journey I started last year. It’s quite exciting as these are un-swum waters. This year’s route follows a known humpback migration path. I am a bit nervous and pretty darn excited all at the same time.”

Simmons will attempt to swim across 40-50 km in the traditional territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation and British Columbia’s Inside Passage.

Continuing from where her last year’s swim ended, Simmons will enter the water in the Great Bear Rainforest on the shores of Bella Bella and swim to Namu. “Namu is an old canning community that was abandoned several years ago. Built along docks, the town is in a state of disrepair with much of it falling into the ocean creating an environmental hazard. Namu is also the site of an ancient Heiltsuk village with site artifacts dating back up to 10,000 years.”

Last year the swimmer, along with friends Dale Robinson and Jill Yoneda, swam from Ocean Falls to Bella Bella in their two-day stage swim called the Great Bear Swim [see video above].

Simmons plans to share what she learns about the natural environment that connects these two unique communities in the Great Bear Rainforest through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the Great Bear Swim blog. Of particular interest this year is Namu, an old canning community that was abandoned several years ago. Built along docks, the town is in a state of disrepair with much of it falling into the ocean creating an environmental hazard. Namu is also the site of an ancient Heiltsuk village with site artifacts dating back up to 10,000 years.

Simmons was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis over 20 years ago. “I have chosen a lifestyle that manages the disease through physical fitness and diet. My number one form of exercise is swimming and my diet is vegan. Both minimize the stress on my body, making it possible for me to live an active life.”

The Great Bear Sea is on the northern portion of the Pacific coast of Canada along the Great Bear Rainforest. The coastal rainforest extends from Bute Inlet to the south and the Alaskan panhandle to the north. Great Bear is less than 0.2% of the earth’s land mass and it remains one of the rarest forest types.

The Great Bear Rainforest and Great Bear Sea is home to wildlife including genetically distinct wolves, the all-white spirit bear and Canada’s largest grizzly bears, Pacific salmon, humpback whales, northern resident killer whales, transient killer whales and other species.

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