If there is one person who can make swimming almost four kilometres across the Saanich Inlet on a rainy spring day sound like a lazy day on the beach, it has to be Lucas Gentina.
“It was awesome,” he said of his Sunday swim in an interview Monday morning. “I’m pretty stoked about that.”
The rehabilitation assistant for seniors at the long-term unit of the Saanich Peninsula Hospital entered the waters of the Saanich Inlet in Mill Bay Sunday morning and stepped out of them with a broad, infectious grin some 90 minutes later in North Saanich’s Deep Cove neighbourhood at the beach near the intersection of Madrona Drive and Wain Road, all part and parcel of a campaign to raise funds for wheelchairs to help seniors at the hospital.
“It was pretty sweet,” he said of completing the course. “I enjoyed it quite a lot. You got two safety boats in the water. It made it a little bit easier for me to get guided. It was just super fun and I’m looking forward to bringing some joy and happiness.”
Gentina is used to these longer swims. In January, he swam some two kilometres while crossing Elk Lake in Saanich. This second swim, however, was in a category of its own.
Not only was it nearly twice as long at 3.7 kilometres, but also in ocean water. Gentina felt the difference on his body when he had to stop in the middle of the course as the camera team accompanying him had to switch boats. “I got super cold in the middle,” he said.
“We were really blessed with a good day though. It wasn’t a lot of wind and the water was quite calm and we had a good tide. Overall, the conditions were good. The only thing was it was kind of rainy. But we worked around that.”
Another difference between crossing Elk Lake and the Saanich Inlet was the water traffic, so to speak. “It was kind of funny because you would see some other boaters ripping by to check out the situation before going their way,” he said. “There were a couple of crabbing and prawning vessels that make a lot of waves for me though. I got caught in the wake — it was pretty fun.”
While Gentina’s first swim raised in excess of $11,000, final fundraising figures are not yet available. The money this time may go towards refurbishing existing wheelchairs rather than purchasing new ones.
Gentina is also already planning for his next fundraising swim. “I got some big things planned,” he said. “I don’t want to say too much right now, but I am definitely thinking about some big things.”
In the meantime, he is grateful for being able to have completed a second large swim and having received support from two Saanich businesses (Fijian Son Fishing Charters and Frank Whites Dive Store) as well as North Saanich’s Cold Water Divers.
He also takes pride in likely having become the first Chilean-born swimmer to cross the Saanich Inlet. “I’m really happy about that and it’s something I’m going to take to my grave.”
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