Grown-up swimming badges: Part II

I must begin with the caveat that summer is not over. I REPEAT, SUMMER IS NOT OVER. But as it's the last week the outdoor pools are open in Toronto, I figured it was time to celebrate some of our swimming accomplishments in embroidered badge-form:

This summer's grown-up swimming badges (clockwise): 
- Laura Queen of the Docktail's Swimming Sommelier Badge (featuring a perfect vinho verde, a boozy watermelon rosemary lemonade, an aperol spritz and an epic red).
- Patrice's Swimming Sustenance Badge (featuring her roadtrip clambake)*
- My Jumping-In Bravery Badge (because this summer marks the first I haven't hung off the ladder for HOURS)
- Rhya's Director of Underwater Photography Badge (because of her hauntingly beautiful river photos!)

And I couldn't let our epic Swimming Holes We Have Known collective cliff jump go unrecognized! CLIFF JUMPING BADGES FOR ALL!

Check out last summer's badges here!

* please note the French knot shrimp. THEY KILL ME!!
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Guest blog: Lindsay Sutherland + the University of Toronto's Olympic-sized pool

The internet can be a magical place, and through my Twitter posts about this swimming blog, I e-met a kindred spirit, Lindsay Sutherland – another swim-and-book-loving Lindsay. I love following her swim-ventures and we're lucky enough to have her guest post about her swimming world – Master's swimming, recovering from injuries and returning to swimming (that sounds familiar!)

Welcome, Lindsay!

Where did you swim: I swim at the Athletic Complex at University of Toronto, in the Olympic sized pool.

Do you swim here often? 
I swim here weekly – with the Toronto Masters swim team (technically we are called 'Toronto Masters of the Universe', or ‘TMU’ – but the whole name is kind of embarrassing!)

How did you first learn about this swimming hole? 
I've been coming to the U of T pool since I was 13 years old - I used to train with Ajax Aquatic Club and our Sunday morning practices were held here.

What was it like? 
Very cold and chlorinated - just like I like it!

Water texture/temp/colour: Clean, blue and in the 70s

What colour is your bathing suit (or was it a skinny-dipping situation?)
Crrently my ‘indoor pool’ swim suit is a plain black TYR training suit.

Sand/rock bottom? Weeds/no weeds? 
Lovely tile with lane lines and TORONTO spelled out below me.

What is your swimming style? 
My preference is mostly freestyle – but with some backstroke lengths when possible within a practice.  I am also a sprinter as opposed to a distance swimmer – so I prefer to train in sets of shorter, faster intervals than longer distances.

How did you get into the water? 
I dove in from the edge, after waiting a respectable 7 seconds after the swimmer in front of me.

What's your swimming story?
I have a love-hate-love relationship with swimming.  I was always the kid who dreaded going to swimming lessons, until the moment I got into the pool – then I never wanted to get out. 

Summers and vacations were spent playing with my little sister in pools and just having fun – doing handstands, holding my breath for as long as I could and ‘flipping’ our hair in fun styles. 

When we moved to a new town when I was in 7th grade, I tried out for a swim team instead of taking more lessons, not knowing I was getting into a competitive atmosphere.  It turned out I wasn’t too bad at it, so I stuck with it.  From age 11 to age 18 I moved up the ranks of the club until I was training 9-10 times a week with Olympic hopefuls under a very strong coach who had been with Anne Ottenbrite when she represented Canada at the Olympics in 1984. Swimming took over my life and the practices took over most of my days, but I loved my team mates, I loved going fast in the pool and I wanted to win big one day. I wore my swim coat proudly and was known as ‘the swimmer’ at my high school – who almost always had wet hair.  When I was 17 my body started protesting more than the usual sore shoulders – and I started going to a chiro and physio more and more and swimming less and less as I tried to heal.  When I was able to go to the pool, I dreaded practice – all it meant was pain and frustration with my self, my coach, and my body.  When it was suggested by one of my doctors that my body would not recover while I was still training, and when I was kicked out of one too many practices for being unable to complete a butterfly set, I made the hard decision to leave the sport. 

In my mid-20s I realized that I really missed swimming and decided to look into masters swim clubs.  I found out that the University of Toronto Masters team swam out of the same pool where I spent my Sundays as a kid – and so I signed up and in no time was racing again. I don’t swim 9 times a week anymore (sometimes I am lucky if I get one practice in!), but it gives my life some balance and the beauty of it is that it’s (mostly) pain and injury free.  In 2014 I went to the World Masters Championships in Montreal, QC – which has been the highlight of my ‘adult’ swimming life so far.  

Whether out at DD Summerville Pool for outside summer practices, or inside at UofT, I feel completely at home in a pool.  I am lucky enough to have some great teammates and coaches that make each practice fun and make me feel like I am 16 years old again.  I hope I keep swimming and competing for as long as I can – it’s a sport that never gets old and keeps you young.

Thanks so much, Lindsay!! This totally inspires me to join a Masters Club one of these days...

Lindsay Sutherland is a backstroke and freestyle sprinter who swims with TMU, and is a proud member of the TCLES relay team.  She also is a proud mom to a 4 year old who just successfully swam a whole lap of his teach pool unassisted!  She is most at home in chlorine and most scared of weeds tickling her feet in lakes.
  • Lindsay
  • Saturday, August 27, 2016

My top 6 Toronto pools for swimming with kiddos

I love (LOVE!) swimming, but since having my kid 18 months ago, I've realized how much more complicated it can be to swim with a kid (especially solo).

I've learned to strategically pack a bag (towels on the top for quick post-swim-shivering-kid access!) and to make sure there are snacks for both of us to combat the post-swim hangries.

Pools with big, wide benches in the change rooms, warm (at least not freezing) water are key, with extra bonus points for super shallow steps/area for littles to splash around in.

With nap schedules and a toddler who despises being strapped into a car seat, especially on hot summer days, I've only been able to explore west-end pools, but here are my favs:

#1: Alex Duff Memorial Park at Christie Pits

It's taken me until today to get to this west end gem (and it did open late this season), but I am a convert! There are FOUR (!) pools here: three shallow ones, including a wading pool, wide steps, and a really wide, slow entry for timid swimmers (and a deep end and a twirly slide for big kids).

There are even universal change rooms (in addition to men's and women's), and there's stroller parking on deck! The shallow pools are also super warm AND it's even TTC accessible.

AND the hours are amazing: M-F 10am-9pm, S/Su 10am-8pm until Labour Day, the THEN there are extra hours from Sept 6-18: M-F 4-7pm and S/Su 12-4pm. So much swimming left!

Amazing, right?!

#2: High Park Pool:

The photo at the top of the post is from High Park Pool. The hours aren't great with Jack's nap schedule, but it has a really shallow wade-in for littles, and a mini splash pad next to the pool. (Oh, and a twirly slide for older kids). There are two connected pools: one shallow end and one deep end, which means the rowdy cannonballing older kids aren't plowing into little guys. It's a chilly pool, so it's best appreciated mid-summer, in the middle of a heat wave

Also, there's an amazing wading pool/splashpad combo nearby (that is open in the afternoon window the pool is closed) and it's near a subway station (and bikeable from my house – extra points).

Oh, and the rows and rows of lockers in the change room makes for great entertainment while you get changed...

#3: Lambton Kingsway Pool at Dundas W at Prince Edward Dr.

This was the first pool I took Jack to, and I guarded at this pool briefly, so I'm definitely biased, and it's open until 4:15 for public swim, which makes for post-nap dips. It's not particularly transit-friendly, BUT, there's a family change room and long ramp into the shallow end makes for great kid-entries. It's surrounded by parks and tennis courts and baseball diamonds, and grass (which makes for the perfect place to change a toddler...!) Be warned: the change rooms are tiny (and there is currently a cold water alert on!)

#4: Giovanni Caboto Pool at Lansdowne and St. Clair

This one is a big huge, beautiful pool. The change rooms here are SO great for getting a wriggly toddler in and out of a suit – big benches, lots of space. It gets busy, but there are wide steps that are great for water-timid toddlers to get their feet wet.

And after the pool closes for an hour from 4-5, don't take off your kid's suit – just head over to the wading pool in Earlscourt Park. A brilliant summer afternoon!

I've already waxed poetic about Park Lawn Pool, the pool that holds my entire childhood so once again, I'm far from objective, but it's a quiet pool (this year at least!). It's next to a small park with swings and a slide (and my sister's amazing backyard is close by...!) 

It's not particularly transit friendly, but it's open till 4:15 (which is great post-nap for us!) and there's a huge parking lot. Note: there is a "family change room" though it's nowhere near the pool, and is less a change room than a room with a bench. 

#6: Sunnyside Gus Ryder

I love Sunnyside because it's big and huge and always busy. It's right by the lake, with extra points for being beside the dinosaur park and near the Lakeshore Blvd, (and if your kid loves trucks/buses/cars half as much as mine, it makes for entertaining viewing!) It's got wide steps and a ramp in the shallow end. Note: you can't bring bags out on the deck, which can be tricky with littles.

The best part about Sunnyside is that it's open every day from 10-3:45, and then again from 5-8. Is there anything better than a morning swim? (And morning swims always make for solid afternoon naps!)

Aaaaaaaand when naps are long, or bathing suits are MIA, there's always the backup "pool":

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, August 25, 2016

The longest swim and a fire at the pool

My goal this summer was to swim for as long as my arms could carry me. It's not the easiest thing to carve out a full morning but I was inspired by listening to all the training stories of Olympic atheletes and I finally managed to find the time. I hit the start button on my phone and hopped into the pool. I figured I had at least two hours in me. Even though I usually do a half hour warm up, it took forever to hit 30 minutes, knowing that would be a only a quarter of my swim. My mind wasn't wandering the way it usually does, too keyed up on how much time had passed, or not passed. 

It was boring. Way more boring than I anticipated. And even though the day was a hot one, and the water was the perfect temp, I was cold (I'm always cold when I'm swimming these days!)

BUT I finally got into a rhythm about an hour in, and at an an hour, fifteen I wondered if I even had more than two hours in me. 

At an hour and a half, the lifeguards started blowing their whistles—a long clear-the-pool blast. They were shouting into their megaphones. Get out of the pool. Clear the pool. Everyone out. I was an hour and a half in. I wasn't ready to stop. My arms weren't the least bit tired. I had even overridden the boredom. But lifeguards were running down the deck, telling swimmers to get their things and leave through the gates. Don't change, they insisted. There's no time.

And then the wail of sirens started coming closer. Not one fire truck, not two, not even three. There were five firetrucks lined up on Lakeshore Blvd. by the time I got out, still dripping. 

There was a fire in the pool (well, an electrical fire in the boiler room).

No one was hurt, and the pool re-opened later that day (thanks for the update, Twitter!) and the morning felt like a strange dream. 

I wasn't tired, that afternoon, or the next day. My arms weren't sore, or my legs – something I find quite astounding.

I had thought about trying again and actually hitting the two hour mark, but there are other things to do, like read on pool decks and explore new pools before the summer is over and re-watch Penny Oleksiak's gold medal race, so I'm going to have to wait till next summer to see how long my arms can swim...

Oh, and to make it through a morning without having 487894 snacks the way I usually do, I downed this epic smoothie pre-swim: avocado, coconut cream, almond butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, raspberries, maple syrup and almond milk...mmmmmmmm!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, August 22, 2016

Swimming intel from Coach Dave

Vaughn Ridley/Getty (more photos here!)

It's no secret that we three swimmers have been glued to the Olympics over the last two weeks. What an amazing showing by the Canadian women. Penny Olesiak is truly a marvel.

And making the experience even better, was Mark Tewksbury's reporting and insight, and having the amazing Canadian swim coach, Dave Ling, answer all of my swimming questions on Twitter throughout the races!

I met Dave once upon a time at the University of Toronto pool. He swam on the Varsity team and lifeguarded, and I tried to swim in the fast lane. Now he's new coach of the St. John's Legends Swim Club and former assistant coach at the Toronto Swim Club (where Olympian superhero, Penny Oleksiak trains! He chatted with CBC here!)

Here are the things I learned over the last few weeks:

On bilateral breathing during freestyle (because, as Rhya noted, in both the sprints and longer distances, the swimmers were breathing on one side): 
DL: As swimmers get older they typically choose to breathe to 1 side based on comfort.  Coaches try & teach breathing on both sides.

On strategy for pacing a long swim (like the 1500m):
DL: Depends on the coach & the kids will tell you that we try and descend 1/3s 500-500-500

On kicking + long distances (because, did you notice the lack of kicking during the 1500?) 
DL: Legs take up A LOT of oxygen so the legs will really come in the last 400m.

On relay takeovers (and the the other team members do NOT tell the 2nd swimmer when to go, ahem, Park Lawn Piranhas!):
DL: As long as the entering swimmer has contact with the block when the swimmer in the water touches then all is legal.

On butterfly technique (I was always told that your knees had to stay together, turns out NOT SO!):
DL: (You made it up) … or otherwise a rule much older then your years.  Sounds like bad teaching back in your swimming lessons years.

Dave also inspired me to watch the 10km open water marathon swim and I couldn't believe how compelling it was! A pack of white water for nearly 2 full hours. And it turns out it's a crazy mind-game filled/physical race under the water (more here – I had no idea!) The photo finish was bananas! 

Thanks, Dave!

Additional Olympic+swimming reading: 

Why Simone Manuel's gold-medal swim in Rio was so historic by Andray Domise. This is a vital, important read. 

On potential currents in the Rio pool. 

On why there are so many ties in swimming (hello three-split silver!)

  • Lindsay
  • Saturday, August 20, 2016

Guest blog: Patrice Hall + the Gatineau River

The biggest, splashiest welcome to our very first guest blogger, Patrice Hall! She has been instrumental in our summer of swimming, hosting we three swimmers for an epic weekend on the river, filled with cliffjumping, skinnydipping and docktails and general swim-y merriment.

Here's Patrice and her beautiful river:

Where do you swim?
River *

Do you swim here often?
I swim in it as often as I can from May to September

How did you first learn about this swimming hole?
One day I woke up with a horseshoe in my a** and came to find myself living on the most beau-ti-ful river in Chelsea QC. I’m still uncovering all its nooks and crannies and the special little swimming holes it hides. 

What is it like?
Other: It’s complicated

Water texture/temp/colour: 
The Gatineau is black water due to the tannins from decomposing trees (it was a logging river after all) and it has a silky texture that I love. 

What colour is your bathing suit (or was it a skinny-dipping situation?) 
I’m all about the no-suit salute! You’ll find me down at the river almost every night after dark. 

Sand/rock bottom? Weeds/no weeds? 
The Gatineau River has it all and I enjoy it all.

What is your swimming style?
Head up breaststroke *
Michael Phelps-style butterfly

How did you get into the water?
If I’m not being silly (which is a lot of the time), a long shallow dive is my most favourite entry.

What's your swimming story? 

Swimming’s been a constant – from backyard lessons to lifeguarding to summer camp. Now, it keeps me sane and whole. A dip in the river washes my stress away and connects me with life’s simple pleasures.
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, August 18, 2016


Lindsay: For years I've wanted to take advantage of the Extreme Heat Alert late night swims, but for all sorts of reasons—cottage trips, family emergencies, friend emergencies—I've always managed to miss night swimming. Until last weekend. It was face-meltingly hot, and Twitter confirmed Sunnyside was open and I zipped down to the lake after the sun set.

(It was the first time I haven't had to remember to wear sunscreen to an outdoor dip!)

It was way more full than I expected, and the flood lights were so, so bright it felt like the middle of the day. There were kids playing Marco Polo in the shallow end and couples making out in the deep end, and because I'd been watching Olympics non-stop, I had to start with a few quick lengths (working on my flip turns because...PENNY OLEKSIAK-SPIRATION!)

It was the most glorious, most long-awaited swim. The water was cool, cold even, such relief from the 43 degree humidity. The clouds were too thick to see the Perseid meteor shower, but the moths were lit by the flood lights and looked like shooting stars as I floated in the deep end. (And I saved the day for a kid by moving a ginormous cicada off his towel).

And then, of course, I listened to REM's Nightswimming on loop until I fell asleep and had the most perfect turquoise dreams.


 Meanwhile on the north side of town... 

Rhya: I too was blasting Nightswimming through my headphones... because it's one of the top ten ultimate swim songs (note: need to make this list and post here!) It wasn't on repeat though, as I was also floating in Wheat Kings and other Tragically Hip faves in honour of their Toronto concerts that were happening this weekend. So I was pretty much drenched in nostalgia by the time I got to the pool. 

The change rooms were quiet. I moved through them fast and headed to the pool deck.

I decided to go for the spontaneous swim because night swimming is like the chlorine soaked unicorn of the Toronto summer! You just have to hit one up when you see that tweet announcing that pools will be open late due to an extreme heat warning.

The JJP was lit up and splashing! There was a real mix of people, from teens canon balling into the deep end, to parents with newborns taking turns floating in the shallow end. I was alone for my swim. I dove in and did some very relaxed lengths. There were two others like me. A woman with her swim cap perched high on her head and an older gentleman whose noggin never dipped under the water...not once. We loosely crowded together on the south side of the pool and did lazy laps, back and forth from the edge of the deep end to the edge of the shallow end.

I kept stopping to people watch. There were kids practicing handstands on the deck, lots of people  bobbing about chatting and laughing, and tons of fancy flips happening into the deep waters. 

At one point I was almost bowled over by two young boys locked in a very messy race of front crawl. Let's just say there were crazy arms and someone swallowed too much water, and just way too much splashing. It was a riot to be under the city sky, surrounded by life, floating and swimming through that magical night.

I'm glad I caught the unicorn this year!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, August 15, 2016

Road Trip: The Secret Grotto

I'm not actually supposed to tell you about this swimming hole. It's supposed to be a secret. It doesn't even have a name.

That, at least, is what the locals (whom I am sworn to not name) told me when they put the directions into Google Maps on my phone.

When I arranged to do a design presentation up in Caledon, Ontario earlier this week, I packed my little swim bag with a bathing suit, a towel and some play shoes, and decided to go find this secret swimming hole after my meeting was done.

I'm not supposed to tell you, so don't tell anyone it was me.

But this place is AMAZING, so here's a little destination guide, in case you decide you want to go too and not tell anyone you were there. I may or may not have made you a map. (*Read to the end to find out if I did or didn't.)

* * * * * *

Step 1: Get yourself to Caledon, Ontario

Have you been to Caledon? It's BEAUTIFUL!! Big rolling hills, rivers and hiking trails, gorgeous farmland, big poofy cloud skies.

From there, head west and drive through Erin, a cutie-pie small town. They have a good bakery there called Holtom's. I didn't go there, but you could and tell me how it is. When you get to a corner with a stoplight and see the Tin Roof Café, turn right there and head towards Everton.

* * * * * *

Step 2: Finding the right path

When you get to Everton, you turn off the highway and drive through the tiniest collection of houses. When you see the Everton church, you're almost there.

Soon after you pass the church, you'll approach a bridge, and you can park on the side of the road where the shoulder is a little wider.

And now here's the trick. My farmer friend said "Park and then just look around for the path. It's not marked."

Oh boy, is it ever not marked.

I found a wee opening into the trees where there was a sock dangling off a weed, and thought "This must be it!" I walked up into the very lovely forest and there was a trail marked with red dots so I thought, yes, this is it. But a little way in I met Matt, a green-tshirted guy with his little daughter who were in there for a walk and he told me I was going the wrong way. The swimming hole was on the OTHER side of the road.

So I went back and looked again. There's an old red barn there and if you look just beyond the guard rail on the bridge, you can see the tiniest foot path. That's the way.

* * * * * *

Step 3: Follow the sound of the waterfall

I should mention that this is a really beautiful little hike. Take a second and breathe it in, because it is glorious. But I recommend proper shoes because you have to climb around a little. I had changed from my design-presentation-shoes into sandals but they were not really sturdy enough. I also recommend that you change out of your design-presentation-skirt. But I managed ok, I just hiked it up when I needed some leg range and showed my butt to the forest a lot. Ahem.

Because this trail is not marked, and because you have no idea where you're going or how far it is, all you can do is follow your nose and follow the growing sound of a waterfall.

And then, all of a sudden, you're there. The secret grotto.

* * * * * *

Step 4: The Swim

I'm not really sure what to tell you here, other than that this swimming hole felt like magic, and I felt lucky to be the only one there. The water is cool and refreshing and you can paddle around, and float, and explore the different nooks and crannies of the grotto. You can look up at the sun filtering through the ring of trees on the cliffs, you can eat the juiciest Ontario peach (which is what I did), or bring a bag of chips and a book and hang out on a rock for a while. You can marvel about the waterfall gushing into the pool, or you can hike through a little further and enjoy the forest. Then put your play shoes back on and head home.

And that's it for the Secret Grotto. Let me know if you go. Bring me back a cookie from Holtom's.

  • Laura
  • Friday, August 12, 2016

Phelps Face

Apparently #PhelpsFace is a thing, aka the official Olympic meme of #Rio2016.

As all of us swimmers here at #SHWHK are HUGE Phelps fans, how could we not create a list of #PhelpsFace worthy moments that every swimmer has faced at some point in their life... or if you haven't just take notes, because these things will happen to you!

*Small side bar: Please share your own swimming related #PhelpsFace moments with us via Twitter or in the comment field of this post so we can add them to our list. We would love to hear them!

Now without further ado, here is our list:

#PhelpsFace Moments That Anyone Who Is A Swimmer Will Understand!

When it's 40° and the pools aren't open late!
When it's winter and everything is frozen!
When you are about to dive in and see nothing... but WEEDS!
When you do dive in and find nothing... but WEEDS!
When you get out of the pool and realize you left your undies at home!
When you forget you motha’ flippin' bathing suit at home!
When you realize your bathing suit is just too see-through to pass (and has probably been too see-through for the last several swims.) 
When the sign says “Pool Is Closed” but the website said open!
When there has been a fouling 💩!
When someone mentions the presence of a dock spider!
When someone is swimming horizontally across all lanes during length swim. (I mean seriously, that is CRAZY!)
When someone is peepin' you under the water!
When you see fast swimmers in the slow lane, and slow swimmers in the fast lane!
When you are promised swimming and there is no swimming!
And for the finale, I gave my own #PhelpsFace a try to accompany:
My attitude towards all WEEDS in general!
  • Rhya
  • Thursday, August 11, 2016


We 3 Swimmers recently went on our first swimming road trip together. We bailed early on work, piled into Laura's car, turned up the stereo and and drove our carload of chips and wine gums to Chelsea, Quebec to stay with our wonderful friend & Quebec correspondent Patrice (pictured above). It was an epic weekend, CHOCK FULL of our favourite things and none of us will ever forget it.

The Big Deal thing that happened, was that we went CLIFFJUMPING. Yes. We did this. Below you'll find our individual stories, and photographic proof, about how it all went down.

But first, it seems so fitting to publish this group piece about JUMPING IN today – because today is the First-Year Anniversary of Swimming Holes We Have Known!!! It's hard to believe how much has happened in a year just because of this blog. Our stories have had well over 25,000 reads!!!!! We've been featured on CBC radio. We have Olympic swimming heroes sharing our posts. We starred in a short film in a secret pool. We now regularly use the words Docktail and Rocktail in our vocabularies. We go on road trips to find swimming holes, individually and collectively. We have a legion of fans (well, a small legion) sending in their best imitation photos. And people all over social media are now using our hashtag to share their swimmy moments, #swimmingholeswehaveknown.

I think we 3 all agree that the best decision was that we just jumped in. And that we did it together. We thank you for being here with us.

Without further ado, we give you Cliffjumping: The Swimming Holes We Have Known Edition.

* * * * *


I am not a cliffjumper. I am a cautious klutz, so I never really saw cliffjumping fitting into my lineup of life skills. I mean I can dive in off a not so high diving board, or a rickety raft, that's not an issue. But cliff jumping... that has always remained one of those things I wanted to have the guts to do... but simply could never dig deep enough to find them when the opportunity arose. I remember camping in Killarney one summer, our site was situated almost directly beside the infamous cliffjumping site at the park. Smooth rocky Canadian cliffs overlooking that crazy see-through blue water, piled high with kids just throwing themselves in, over and over again. It looked like so much fun, and there I was tip toeing down towards the water's edge, to scrape my knees on the rocks as I very ungracefully tried to slide in. Why couldn't I just jump?

Then before we took off on our inaugural swim trip, I was visiting my dad and family in Gananoque. My brothers and I took a quick dip at the local berm, where I was teased for being too cautious about jumping in off the higher than usual dock (which I eventually did... flailing cannonball style). And then they razzed me again for chickening out of cliff jumping at the locks we visited up the road. And again, I felt that same irritation... why couldn't I just jump?

So when we hit the Gatineau River for our swimming trip the following weekend and our intrepid host Patrice gave us a tour of swimming options and then mentioned the potential of cliffjumping... my ears instantly perked up. She was looking for someone to join her, as she had yet to muster the courage to take the plunge along with all the ten-year-olds who apparently don't come programmed with self-preserving fear like us late thirtysomethings. And that was all I needed, a kindred spirit to snap me out of my fear. A positive push and assurance I was surrounded by strength, in the smiles of my fellow swimmers. The lever in my brain snapped on to "JUMP IN" and that was that. I knew I would take the plunge.

And the very next day I did! And it was worth every single second of excruciating tummy tumbling fear before I stepped off that cliff and fell arms waving, screams riding the wind, and toes curling up towards the sun. The impact was shocking, the water was warm, and I felt alive. And I did it again. And again. And again.

So watch out Kilarney, I'm coming for you next!

(Bonus highlight was playing some ridiculous game where you yell an animal name at your fellow cliffjumper while they are jumping and then must try to emulate said animal in the air. It was a lot harder than it sounded. I believe I almost got a lion's roar in there somewhere... but probably sounded more like an screeching hyena.)

* * * * *


I am not a jumper-inner. I'm just not. I linger on the ladder, wade to my knees and generally take forever to get in. Jumping in was THE WORST part about lifeguarding and I chose back crawl whenever I could while I was on a swim team.

So when our Swimming Holes We Have Known road trip landed on the edge of the Gatineau River, I was all set to take the ladder in. It was cold and grey and we had been driving for hours and needed to eat something that wasn't wine gums/IKEA chips – there was no time for my ladder-taking shenanigans. Laura stood on the dock and insisted we hold hands, all four of us, and counted down from three. I had no choice. I jumped.

I didn't love it, but I did it. And it was really the only way to get into the freezing cold river.

The next day, I still wasn't convinced I was a jumper-inner. That was a one-off, that pre-dinner dock jump. Except our wonderful host and Swimming Holes We Have Known Quebec correspondent, Patrice, REALLY wanted to jump off a cliff. All the kids in the area do it and she decided it was her summer to join them.

Rhya went first because she is fearless and brave like nobody's business. And she went in from the second-highest point. Patrice went next, taming those butterflies and brave as all get out. I wasn't ready for the second highest rock. I could do the lowest one, I decided, my heart pounding in my throat. It took a few countdowns before I could do it, but I did. I jumped! And it wasn't as shocking or bracing or terrifying as I had thought. It was even exhilarating.

Taking the rope up the rock was fun (I felt like a kid!), and then after watching an 11- and 10-year-old launch themselves off the rock with abandon, I decided to try the second highest point. It was less fun – a bit too much air time for me, but I did it and I am now officially a jumper-inner.

Who has time for ladder lingering when there is swimming to be done...

* * * * * *


Let me preface this by saying that those close to me who are familiar with my fear of falling have always been impressed by how loudly – and how many times – I can scream during one jump, or during one amusement park ride. So... historically, a cliffjumper I am NOT.

I think the last time I jumped from a great height was when I was 16 years old and visiting my cousins in Texas. I don't remember the particulars of it, only that I stood for a Very Long Time looking over the precipice working up the nerve to take the leap, and that when I finally hit the surface, pretty much every part of my body that touched the water did its own spectacular and individual version of a bellyflop.

So when Patrice proposed that we jump off the cliffs alongside the Gatineau River, my inner child threw a wee tantrum and I trudged quietly up the hill at the back of our little swim-pack, content to let the others go first and wondering if there was any way I could get out of it.

But my turn came. There was no pressure (the courage of these lovely women was all I needed). And I jumped.

It wasn't so bad. I can't say that I will from here on be an official cliff jumper, but I DID earn my adult swim badge for Cliff Jumping, for which I am pretty darn proud... so who knows? We'll see where the swim-ventures lead.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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