Friday, September 10, 2010

Over, Under, Sideways, Around

In the year 2000 I started swimming in the ocean.  It was all part of training for a millenium project, the Alcatraz Swim, that I had started with some fellow pool rats in the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, and it was to have a profound effect on my lifestyle, how I viewed the city I'd grown up in, and my view of nature.  There was another world out there I'd never really given much thought to and it had been on my doorstep all along.

Swims With Seals photo by Junie Quiroga

Even though I lived within a block from the ocean and was born and raised in Vancouver, it had never occurred to me to swim in the ocean. Other than taking an occasional dip in the summer, serious swimming was done in swimming pools.  To be fair, most of the year the water was cold and so was the air but, if we could put men on the moon, these were minor inconveniences a little technology should easily resolve. In this case all it took was a stretchy neoprene suit with matching boots, gloves and hood.

Nelson & Jack photo by Junie Quiroga

Out in the fresh air and away from the usual "smell of chlorine first thing in the morning" this invigorating new environment was already quite a shock to the system but, when the seals showed up to accompany me, things started to get magical.  Curious, friendly but also a little shy, the seals seemed to guide me and keep an eye out for boat traffic, as I swam from Kits to Second Beach, and probably wondered what had possessed me to swim here in the first place. I'd been counting laps in pools for longer than I cared to remember and, as much as I'd always enjoyed it, I realized now there was no going back to an artificial environment.

Crown Jewel photo by Junie Quiroga

I was now one with the ocean and the seals every morning when I went for my swim, and it didn't take long from there before I had purchased a cabin cruiser to start exploring the surrounding waters.  With a boat and an obsession for swimming in the ocean the final logical step was to take up scuba diving, and soon I also became a Divemaster.  The more time I spent either over, under, sideways and around the water the more I realized how much was going on and how unaware most people were of all the ocean happenings.

Nelson Quiroga photo by Junie Quiroga

Whether it's about the commercial side of things with the shipping, tugs and fishing boats, the recreational activities such as rowing, kayaking, windsurfing, paddling, and sailing, all the creatures living in the water or all the clubs and organizations dedicated to supporting and/or protecting these things, never mind all the history, the ocean has more of an impact on the city than I think anyone really stops to think about.  But where is the collective voice for all these interests? Perhaps there isn't such a thing but, after 10 years of developing and qualifying my own unique perspective, I feel it's time to start sharing my thoughts about the ocean scene in the Vancouver area.


  1. Very interesting. I am looking forward hearing about more aquatic adventures.

  2. Looking forward to keeping abreast of Vancouver's ocean life. Especially enjoying the seal and whale stories. For me, the joy will be about learning how to co-exist with these mystical creatures.

  3. O.K. so what happened, did Willie Whale get you or what? Waiting for the next instalment....