Lake swim raises safety awareness

A group of swimmers is hitting the water to raise awareness of water safety in advance of the upcoming August long weekend

A group of swimmers is hitting the water to raise awareness of water safety in advance of the upcoming August long weekend.

Team Awareness is a group of 10 endurance swimmers, led by Vernon’s Chris and Mel Spooner, plus members of Endurance Health and the Kal RATS. They will, starting at 6 a.m. Thursday, swim a continuous relay of Kalamalka Lake.

The group will swim the 17.5 kilometres from Oyama to Coldstream with Kevin O’Brien of Kalavida Surf Shop being the group’s paddleboard lead spotter.

The idea was pitched by newcomers to the region, Tim and Dawn Johnson. Tim is an Ironman triathlete who trains with Vernon’s Mel Spooner.

“They’re very aware of the accidents that happen on the lake, and water safety, and they just thought there should be some sort of awareness,” said Spooner.

“I said I would be interested in this because, of course, I do think it’s an important thing. It’s not just about swimming and boats.

“It’s about people being aware of water safety.”

Vernon Search and Rescue reports that since 2004, 23 lives have been lost to drowning, and that 20 of the victims were not wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), and the other three were wearing a loose or poorly fitted PFD which is believed to have contributed to the tragedies.

Vernon Search and Rescue would like to point out the five basic rules of safe water enjoyment of any lake or river, including the North Okanagan:

n Always wear a properly fitted PFD;

n Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Don’t do it;

n Always swim with a lookout;

n Keep an eye on the sky, weather can change quickly;

n Always wear a properly fitted PFD.

“Team Awareness will follow all  rules of North Okanagan water safety and encourage all boaters and swimmers to do the same,” said Spooner.

“By swimming the length of Kal Lake, we hope to bring the awareness that we  want to use our lakes and want to be out there to enjoy them, and enjoy them safely.”