As he prepares to dive into retirement, Coldstream’s chief administrative officer is making a splash into one of the world’s most deadly stretches of water.
Michael Stamhuis is taking on the challenge of the English Channel this summer, alongside four other Okanagan swimmers – Denise Cesselli, Tracey Sutton, Leora Dahl and Phred Martin, all known as the Okanagan Lake Monsters.
The team will take turns, rotating in hour-long legs.
“We continue to do that until we finish or the elements stop us,” said Stamhuis, who wraps up his duties with Coldstream at the end of the year.
There’s a 10-day window, between July 29 and Aug. 7, where conditions are optimal in the unforgiving channel.
“It can be challenging,” said Stamhuis of the frigid waters, fed from the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea.
“A lot of swimmers fail. A number of swimmers have drowned due to hypothermia.”
Along with battling water temperatures of about 15 C without wetsuits, swimmers must prove their endurance in the about 32-kilometre route (which is actually longer due to the tides and pull of the current).
The fastest swim is a little over seven hours and the slowest nearly 27 hours.
“It could be rough, it’s a very rough channel,” he said.
Then there are the sea creatures.
While sharks are rarely seen in the channel, the larger concern for Stamhuis is the jelly fish. He is hoping to avoid encounters with the long, trailing tentacles of the stinging sea creatures.
There’s also boats to steer clear of.
“It’s one of the heaviest shipping routes,” said Stamhuis.
“There’s an awful lot of ships we have to contend with.”
Despite all the obstacles he’s up against, Stamhuis is eager to take on the challenge of the channel.
“I’m quite excited,” said Stamhuis, who will be making the splash just before his 60th birthday in September.
“It’s like climbing Mount Everest. It’s a challenge.”
In fact, it’s the second challenge Stamhuis will be taking in while overseas. He is also competing in the World Masters in Italy July 27.
Stamhuis has been swimming competitively since the age of eight.
His oldest son is also a national swimmer and his mother is a masters swimmer.
“My mother (81-years-old) will be competing in the world championship masters,” said Stamhuis.
Stamhuis was the head official at the Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in May 2012.
He also swam B.C.’s Georgia Strait last summer with Brent Hobbs, who became the first B.C. swimmer to swim the English Channel in 2008.
“I recently competed in the B.C. Masters Swimming Championships in Vancouver. There I set two new Canadian records in my age group (60-64),” said Stamhuis.
The first record was in the 1,500 freestyle, where Stamhuis smashed the old record of 20:21.11 with his time of 19:54.43.
“I broke the record by 27 seconds and became the first Canadian 60 and over to go under 20 minutes,” he said.
He also set the Canadian record in the 800 freestyle with a time of 10:23.39, beating old record of 10:33.81.