VICTORIA — Two Victoria women became the 12th and 13th people known to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Monday.
Only seven weeks after leg surgery, Jill Yoneda of Victoria swam the 18.5 miles from Dungeness Spit to Victoria’s Clover Point on Monday, becoming the 12th person known to have completed the swim.
“I’m still kind of in shock that I made it,” Yoneda, who made the swim in a wetsuit, said after getting out of the water at about 5 p.m. Monday. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Susan Simmons, also from Victoria, finished her swim Monday without a wetsuit.
She was out of the water by 5:30 p.m.
Simmons became the 13th person to swim across the Strait and the eighth person to make it without a wetsuit. She was shooting for Victoria’s Inner Harbour but changed course for Ogden Point late in the swim, likely shaving off about an hour.
Northwest Open Water Swimming Association, which tracks open water swims in the Pacific Northwest, knew of seven successful unassisted swims and four swims with wetsuits.
Efforts to reach Simmons were unsuccessful Monday evening.
Yoneda said conditions were perfect for the swim and she was thankful to have her best friends in the water following her as her support crew.
“It was a perfect day and I couldn’t have done it without my crew,” Yoneda said, shivering.
When asked if she would attempt the swim again, she laughed and said “ask me tomorrow.”
Though the swim is already challenging as is, Simmons, 42, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or MS, more than 20 years ago and Yoneda, who suffers from popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, a condition caused by muscles in her legs blocking the main arteries, is recovering from leg surgery
Yoneda wore a wetsuit because she was fresh out of surgery and to reduce the risk of chronic pain in her legs, she said.
Yoneda started her swim at about 6:30 a.m and finished at 4:37 p.m.
According to support crew posting to Simmons’ Facebook page, she entered the water at 7:15 a.m. with the water temperature at 52.5 degrees Fahrenheit and air temperature at 54.7 degrees. Winds were at 4 knots and waves were 1.3 feet.
The duo had originally planned their swim for Sunday, but postponed it until Monday over concerns of high winds that would have made the swim more dangerous.
Yoneda is an accomplished freediver who was on the Canadian freediving team and who has set national records in the sport.
Last year, the duo swam 31 miles in B.C.’s Great Bear Sea and attempted another leg of the Great Bear in June only to be turned around by poor conditions.
Simmons is swimming to raise money to reopen an MS wellness center in Victoria. She said the center was closed last year and was the only one in the country. To donate, go to her website at withms4ms.com and click on “To Raise Funds for the MS Wellness Centre” at the top.
Yoneda is asking people to donate to a First Nation camp in Tofino, B.C. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/reconnect-ahousat-youth-surf-day.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].