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Big Effort Swim on Christina Lake expected to bring more participants

Charity race could see up to 80-to-100 people hit the water Aug. 19
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The Big Effort Swim, the longest open-water swim event in Canada, saw 40 brave soles test their endurance last year at Christina Lake, including co-founder Sasha Tyoschin of Christina Lake, and Ben Blackmon of Calgary who did the 36 gruelling kilometres and almost 12 1/2 hours. The next instalment is happening Aug. 19 with 60 people already signed up, with more expected to register and participate. photo by Elizabeth Henne

In a few days dozens of people will be jumping into Christina Lake to swim for fun, community and good causes in Canada’s largest open water swim for charity.

The second annual Big Effort Swim will be getting underway Aug. 19, with about 60 people already registered and have been practicing, with at least 70 to 80 people expected to be in the water for the actual event, said co-director and founder Sasha Tyoschin.

This event also gets started very early, with people attempting the 36-kilometre swim getting in the water at 4 a.m. Because this is geared towards swimmers of all abilities, there are several races running during the day. The 18-kilometre race starts at 7 a.m., the 750-metre swim at 10 a.m. and a kids fun swim at Noon. There will also be a two-kilometre and four-kilometre swim starting at 1 p.m.

All swims have a cut-off time of 6 p.m., with awards at 7 p.m. and wrap-up at 8 p.m.

“The Big Effort Swim is part of an umbrella that is the Big Effort Foundation, with the goal of challenging people physically and mentally and bringing together the community,” Tyoschin said. “People can push themselves and it’s all about personal ability, so the more effort you put in, the more impact you will have.”

All participants are under no external pressure to swim the entirety of their distances or break any kind of time records, he explained. The distances they swim will be helping to raise money for charities.

Every kilometre they swim, they will raise money for a charity of their choice. The drive is to raise as much money as they can by swimming as far as they can.

For the 18 and 36-kilometre races, they have doubled their participant numbers, he added.

On land, there will be activities for the community, including a beachside barbecue, with Christina Lake Fire Department Society hosting their own barbecue alongside them. Live music will also be playing for most of the day as well.

Read More: Big Effort Swim scheduled at Christina Lake

While these are races and several participants have been training months to prepare for this, organizers are stressing fun and athleticism, as well as getting the community involved.

This event was born out of boredom and a need to stay in shape, Tyoschin explained.

As a competitive swimmer, he was looking to try to stay occupied and in shape during COVID lockdowns.

“Everything was canceled, Olympic trials weren’t happening and swimming was non-existent in Canada,” he said. “I wanted to get back to it and decided I’m going to swim the length of Christina Lake.”

After completing that, he thought about making it more than just a personal achievement and getting the whole community involved.

With encouragement from the Konkin family, namely Jason Konkin, he and his brothers decided to make it a community event and it was put on the Christina Lake e-Blast newsletter. There was plenty of interest generated. They were planning for an official race in 2021, but were unable to get a permit until 2022.

At the time, no one was sure what kind of turnout they would have because of the long distance, said co-director Victoria Henne.

So to appeal to a broader range of people, they held several different races to encourage more people to participate.

“The whole idea of our foundation is the bigger the effort, the bigger the impact, but for some people swimming two kilometres is a big effort,” she said. “That’s why we have distances for everyone to push themselves.”

They’ve stretched out the event to cover the whole day to include the community, Henne explained. All the events on land and in the water are to get the community to come out and support the foundation’s causes.

To further help with raising funds for charity, the foundation is also selling merchandise, including shirts and sunglasses.

The event is still in need of volunteers on land and as spotters in kayaks to watch over swimmers. Email sasha@bigeffortswim.com if you want to get involved.

All race times, registrations, maps, pledge and donation portals can be found on the Big Effort Swim website.