toronto swimming

This daring Toronto group swims in Lake Ontario all winter long

A brave Toronto group meets up to swim in Lake Ontario throughout the whole winter. 

SwimOP (Swim at Ontario Place) is a group of individuals who willingly take a plunge in the lake during Toronto's cold winters. 

The group was founded by Steve Mann, a University of Toronto professor and inventor of the hydraulophone. He organized it as a research and advocacy group for safe swimming at Ontario Place.

toronto swimming

Members of the SwimOP group after a swim in Lake Ontario.

"We like to swim year-round. Cold-water swimming has positive health benefits. Also with COVID-19 many facilities are closed, so it is important to have access to great recreational facilities," said Mann.

Along with the near-daily swims, the group does volunteer beach cleanups, assisted by underwater VR (virtual reality), mapping of the beach to improve safety, as well as scientific data collection on swimmability, water, and water quality at Ontario Place Beach.

He said that there is a community over 100 people who swim nearly every day, many of which do so year-round. 

toronto swimming

Lake Ontario's temperature was 3.8 degrees celsius on one of the days the members met. 

"We dress warmly and run about 5km to the water which generates some heat, then we go for a swim. The trick to not getting cold is when we're finished, we get dried off and dressed quickly and then go for a hard run back."

Charles Steinhoff is a new member of SwimOP, but has no hesitations jumping into the water. He said he started doing daily swims to support the Cold Water 4 Clean Water, which aims to raise awareness surrounding the lack of clean water on many First Nations reserves.

toronto swimming

SwimOP member looking underwater during a swim.

"Usually, I acclimatize the lower half of my body for about 3 or 4 mins before I start swimming... Once you lose all feeling in the lower half you just need to breathe easy while taking the plunge. The feeling is absolutely amazing. My wife describes it as "swimming through a blue fiery lake," said Steinhoff. 

While spotting some of these swimmers may be a strange sight for many, the group continues to schedule local meetups for those interested in the activity.

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