Third time's the charm for Kim Hedges as she set out to swim across the Strait of Georgia.
Last month, Hedges, swam the 30 kilometres or so between Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast — non-stop and without a wetsuit. On July 9, Hedges set off from the Schooner Cove Marina on Vancouver Island at 2 a.m. and landed in Halfmoon Bay’s Welcome Beach more than 15 hours later at 5:26 p.m.
In doing so, she became the first non-Canadian and fourth woman to accomplish the challenge.
The American swimmer attempted the same crossing twice in 2022 (her first time in B.C.) after being inspired by friend and fellow long-distance swimmer Jessi Harewicz, but was unable to complete her goal because of changing sea conditions that she calls “fickle” and prone to quick changes. At the time, Hedges started her swim from Welcome Beach and headed toward Vancouver Island, but strong winds held her off a few kilometres from shore.
“On both those attempts, it was virtually impossible for the escort boat to safely navigate through those in rough water with me,” Hedges told Coast Reporter via email — she was actually faster than the boat.
After waiting hours for the wind to die down for her third attempt, Hedges again faced the elements: a head-on current as well as a cross-current for at least a quarter of the crossing. At the same time, the lack of sleep was catching up to her and her mind began playing tricks on her, making the land appear as if she wasn’t getting any closer and may never reach it.
When asked how it felt to accomplish her mission, Hedges said, “It was a huge relief.” She had originally planned to attempt the swim in 2020, but the borders closed due to the pandemic and didn’t reopen in time for a 2021 attempt. “I’ve kind of been waiting three years to do/finish this swim,” she added.
“I'm not exactly a spiritual person, but there's something deeply personal and spiritual to me about distance swimming. You kind of go into an otherworldly place on (and even a little bit after) these swims--it's just fascinating. And I also love sharing part of the experience with a great crew.”
The swimmer took time to unwind from her experience before sharing her accomplishment but celebrated with ice cream from e.b.’s Ice Cream Shop in Sechelt on her way home, her face still covered in a thick layer of sunscreen.
Hedges swims year-round in her home waters of San Francisco Bay, after getting hooked on open-water swimming in 2014. She has taken on multiple long laps, including the Strait of Gibraltar. In 2022, she also attempted to swim across the Channel between England and France. Hedges said she prefers the ocean for marathon swims, as it’s more interesting to her. As for the Strait of Georgia, Hedges said she’s become smitten with B.C.