Inspired by orcas, swimmer aims for another loop around Salt Spring

A close encounter with an orca during a swim around Salt Spring Island last year was a magical experience for Rama DelaRosa, so she is back for more in 2018.

DelaRosa, 36, was scheduled to set out on her second Salt Spring circumnavigation swim today at 6 a.m. from Vesuvius Bay. She will do the swim in increments, as before, and plans to finish Sunday at Vesuvius in the early evening.

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Her long-distance swim is the third in the works this week for area waters.

Susan Simmons will attempt a double crossing of Juan de Fuca Strait on Wednesday, while Jill Yoneda hopes to do same in the Strait of Georgia on Friday.

DelaRosa has dubbed her journey the Swim for Salish Sea Orcas, and will donate funds raised to the Georgia Strait Alliance and its work to protect orcas.

Having an orca swim inches from her off Isabella Point in 2017 seemed to be “a beautiful sign from nature” that fit in with the inspiration for her task, she said.

“A lot of this is about wanting to give back to the ocean because it gives so much to me,” DelaRosa said of her efforts.

Her first swim covered about 86 kilometres, and this year’s is expected to fall between 75 and 100 kilometres — depending on the route taken due to factors such as wind.

“Sometimes it’s actually easier to go in the middle of a channel to avoid some of the eddies and nuances along the coast,” DelaRosa said. “Last year took me seven days, this year I’m planning for six.”

She said she was anything but an experienced distance swimmer when she decided to tackle an around-the-Island swim. “I came in into this as an activist,” DelaRosa said.

Turning the Tide, a paddling event to raise concern about issues like pipelines and tanker traffic in the Salish Sea, was a big inspiration for her, she said.

DelaRosa said she is very concerned about orcas, specifically the southern resident orcas and their decreasing numbers. They were listed as endangered about 10 years ago, and since then their numbers have dwindled to 75.

She said her swim has different levels of meaning to her. “As much as this is about orcas it’s very much connected into the bigger web of life.”

Supporters on a 40-foot boat and two kayaks will accompany her, and she will eat along the way while using a kick board to assist. Smoked salmon, hard-boiled eggs and coconut water will help fuel her.

DelaRosa said she has had some serious issues with her legs in the past, one of which led to vascular-bypass surgery, but is still ready for her challenge.

“I’m much faster in the water than I am on land,” she said with a laugh. “Swimming is really healing for me. That’s actually what got me into swimming.”

Donate via DelaRosa’s Facebook page at 2K18 Swim for the Salish Sea Orcas.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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