Around the world the effects of Covid-19 pandemic have been felt in many ways, while people can note many negatives caused by the pandemic, there are some positives that come out of it as well – especially in the world of marathon or long distance open water swimming.
While pools were closed for months – and in some areas of the world still are closed – swimmers have taken to lakes, rivers, and seas to continue their favourite sport. Whether this is for exercise, to maintain training or pure enjoyment of becoming one with nature, swimming is a sport of multiple benefits.
As many in Saint Lucia and around the world will recall, on Friday 13th September 2019, Cameron Bellamy left the shores of St. Peter’s Bay, Barbados and swam a 94 mile expanse of open sea. He arrived in Moule a Chique, Saint Lucia on Sunday 15th.
On the heels of the one year anniversary, since Bellamy achieved a monumental feat swimming from Barbados to Saint Lucia, more endurance athletes are looking to come to Saint Lucia.
Saint Lucia Channel Swim is gearing up for a number of swim attempts in October and November of this year. The channel swim is a 21 mile, 33 KM attempt from Saint Lucia to Martinique. Since 2018, this warm water channel has been completed 3 times with 5 attempts.
Comparable to the English Channel in many ways such as the distance of the swims and being between two iconic landmasses, the Saint Lucia Channel can boast warm waters, less boat traffic, and cleaner seas. These are desirable attributes to many open water swimmers training for longer distances and/or channel swims around the world.
The first swim of 2020 in October will be a historic one, with the attempt of a two-way. Katie Blair will be the first person to attempt to swim from Saint Lucia to Martinique and back to Saint Lucia.
In November, Edward “Ted” Lomicka and Chris Allshouse will each attempt swimming from Saint Lucia to Martinique at separate times. These two swims will take place just weeks apart.
Katie Blair is a 41 year old single mother of a teenage boy, Ashton. Currently, she is studying for her PhD in Performance Psychology and writing a book that details her experiences from open water swimming. Blair is a lifelong swimmer who grew up in Germany. She has over 20 years of endurance sports experience to include Ironman Hawaii finishes, swims of the English, Catalina, and Molokai channels as well as circumnavigations of Manhattan Island and Key West, to name a few.
Edward Lomicka is a husband and father of two daughters with a passion for swimming and endurance sports.
Lomicka’s typical swims cover an average distance of 2.4 miles but go on to include a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. He has completed 29 Ironman triathlons in the past 13 years including the World Championship in Hawaii. Last year, he returned to Hawaii to complete the Ultraman World Championship, a 3-day, 321-mile triathlon that circumnavigates the Big Island.
In training for that event, he swam around the island of Key West. Now he has a new goal.
Seeking a new challenge, he will now attempt to swim the St. Lucia Channel to help promote water safety, endurance swimming, and foster an international kinship with those who love the ocean and sea.
She enjoys training in her pond behind her Indiana home working as a psychotherapist. During the cold weather months, when the pond is frozen she spends her time training at a local pool. “Life isn’t all that different from the open water.”
Chris Allshouse is the 50-year-old husband to Julia and father to two wonderful teenagers, Alexandria and Xavier. Swimming has been a family passion as long as he can remember. He swam competitively through high school and beyond. The sport gave Allshouse the gift of knowing his wife to be and a foundation for total family fitness.
He and his family have the fortune to live on a lake in Ohio which gave rise to a love of open water swimming. Allshouse has had the opportunity to compete in multiple Ironman events. This brought forth a keen interest in endurance events such as marathon swimming.
When not swimming miles in the lake we enjoy waterskiing, wake surfing, and wakeboarding as a family. All things water-related bring balance to their collective family psyche. In order to finance these habits, Allshouse has a day job as a manufacturer’s representative in the electrical industry while Julia is a school teacher.
Allshouse is excited to make the swim across the Saint Lucia Channel this fall. He is forever in awe of the sheer power of the water, the interaction of humans with the ocean, and the deep appreciation for those that support me. “None of this is possible without my family by my side. Leave No Wake.”
Sue Dyson, main organizer of the Saint Lucia Channel Swim, indicated through the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer and Environmental Health teams the solo swims are able to continue to move forward.
The year 2020 was to be the 3rd annual Saint Lucia Channel Swim Event which includes not only attempts from Saint Lucia to Martinique, but also open water clinics and shorter distances races. Due to the unprecedented times, the organizers of the event had to cancel the group gatherings.
Luckily, solo swims are able to now move forward. The concept for the original event was initiated to promote water safety, awareness of open water swimming, and keeping clean seas and beaches. Participants usually come from various areas of the region as well as locally.
Organizers are hopeful for the return of the Saint Lucia Channel Swim Event in 2021 as well as local and regional participants.
According to Dyson, “These have been trying times for everyone. We are glad to have an opportunity for those endurance swimmers to continue with their dreams of channel and long distance swims. With travel restrictions around the world, it has been difficult for many swimmers to continue with their dreams during 2020.” As in the past years, each solo swim is organized through collective efforts with the Ministry of Youth Development & Sports, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, the Marine Police Unit, Emergency Services, SLASPA, and the Ministry of Tourism. These swims will be no different.
Planning these swims has not been easy due to restrictions both in Saint Lucia and Martinique. Dyson stated, “We are thankful to have the support from local authorities as well as the officials in Martinique to make these swims happen. We look forward to successful attempts for all swimmers. I must note, despite the swimmer doing the hard work, it is a team effort for the success of any swim. Without our local captains and support crew, we could not attempt these swims.”