When I first thought about swimming in Haida Gwaii, I wanted to be the first person to complete a marathon swim – a distance of 10 kilometres. I carefully planned three potential routes. After spending a close to a week there however, my goal changed. It changed for two reasons.

The first reason was the around the idea of being the first. When you visit a place where the ancestors, in this case Haida, are known to have been in the territory for 12,000 to 15,000 years, you quickly realize that it is highly unlikely you will be the first to do anything. There is a high probability that someone did it a long time ago and it was not recorded or claimed in the way modern day athletes like to record and claim things.

The second reason, which ultimately became the deciding factor for both swims, was one of legacy. As an athlete with a disability (Multiple Sclerosis) I wanted my legacy to be one of firsts and world records. This however changed in Haida Gwaii. What I would like to be remembered for is the impact I have on those around me. I want to make the lives of others a little brighter, particularly when it comes to the lives of people with disabilities.

Aly and Ben, two Spirit Orcas, were with me on this trip. It didn’t take me long to realize that my relationship with them, and our being together, is of far more value than me being the first modern day athlete to swim a marathon in Haida Gwaii. I wanted them to experience the water with me, and for us to share the joy together.

Through my conversations with Jag and Jaahljuu, both members of the Haida Nation I learned of a swim the Chief’s used to do to inspire their people. It was from Jags where I was staying to a small island, Skyass, in front of the property. I had been staring at Skyass for about a week!

Knowing the history of the swim, it was even more important to me that I receive permission from the Haida Nation to complete it. With the help of friends, I was able to find the Band Council Office and met with Chief Councillor Billy Yovanovich to request his blessings to swim and film. I was overwhelmed by his warm response which included a gentle reminder of the strength of local currents.

On July 4, Aly, Ben and I, escorted by Ben’s parents Kristina and Reg swim from Jags to Skyass and back. The video below is a peek into our journey.

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