Spotlight: Tales from an Open-water Swimmer

As part of an Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed grant, this year we gave away 20 mini testkits to people across Ontario. Since she’s received her testkit, Laura Young, an open-water swimmer in Sudbury, has been diligently testing Nepahwin Lake weekly where she swims. She shared with us her story as an open-water swimmer and explains her changing relationship to the water.

 A loon swimming in Nepawhin Lake
A loon swimming in Nepahwin Lake

“We are walking down the secret path to Nepahwin Lake in Sudbury’s south end. The wind is blowing hard out of the west. The sun is burning hard on the sleeping lake’s waters and the surface is a blaze with crystals from sandy beach up the shoreline to the island. It’s yet another beautiful late afternoon. Time for a swim.

As a member of Laurentian Masters and the race director of the Ian McCloy Island Swim (postponed for obvious reasons this year), I spend most days of my summer in Nepahwin with my buddies.  It’s almost impossible to describe how we feel about this lake.

In 2015, I met Marilyn Bell, swimming legend, the first person to swim across Lake Ontario in 1954. In Toronto for the Pan American Games, Marilyn held a private meet swim meet and greet to see everyone. As the author of her story in Solo Yet Never Alone: Swimming the Great Lakes, I was beyond fortunate enough to be added to her swim family.

Open-water swimmers in Nepahwin Lake
Open-water swimmers in Nepahwin Lake

She spoke at great length of the need for open-water swimmers to be proactive and ensure that the water we love so much, that is so vital to our physical and mental health, is protected. She supports Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and their #SwimDrinkFish campaign: that water needs to be swimmable, drinkable and fishable. And so I listened to my “swim mom.”

This spring, I found Water Rangers and signed up to test our Nepahwin Lake. For the past few summers, us swimmers have noticed the lake doesn’t seem as clear or as clean as it was about five years ago. The hunt is on for answers and to do our part. Ultimately her waters flow into the Great Lakes.

Over the years, Nepahwin has given us so much: a place to swim, friendships, a path to marriage, a race, a magnificence of sun and light and wind dancing on her waters.  It really is home. We are grateful.”

Thank you so much, Laura, for sharing your story. If you have a story about water you’d like to share with us, please get in touch.

Reading Laura’s personal water story reminds us that we all have our own reasons for caring and protecting water. If you’re looking to learn more about a water body that’s important to you and start your water testing journey, you can visit our store or sign up for our study to test a new feature on our app that will “read” test strips for you using your very own tiny testkit. You can find out more here.

This project was made possible with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation
This project was made possible with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation