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Can you top this swimming achievement? 30 swims in 30 spots around Thunder Bay in 12 hours

A Thunder Bay, Ont., man isn’t saying he’s set the record for hitting the most swimming holes in a single day — but he is challenging anyone to beat his new personal best.

Kevin Sidlar, 44, drove more than 250 kilometres to swim in 30 different locations over 12 hours in mid-August.

Sidlar plotted a course with his secret spreadsheet of more than 100 local swimming holes that he collected through satellite images, online history forums and exploring.

“I wanted to make a perfect summer day,” he said. “I’m kind of a memory camel. I build up wonderful memories over the summer to make up for the dark days of winter.”

Sidlar often swims in five or six places per outing, as often as possible, until the ice sets in. But this experience pitted all his experience in swimming hole-jumping against the clock.

He took his first dip in Thunder Bay’s Boulevard Lake at around 7 a.m. as the sun rose over the Sleeping Giant and continued to busy spots early, on a schedule designed to avoid crowds. 

Sidlar’s rule is to spend a minimum of five minutes immersed in each spot.

can you top this swimming achievement 30 swims in 30 spots around thunder bay in 12 hours
One of Kevin Sidlar’s swimming spots in the Thunder Bay area. He kept a detailed list on Microsoft Excel, tracking his progress. (Submitted by Kevin Sidlar)

He initially had ambitions to swim in 35 spots between Sunshine, on Highway 11/17, and Highway 527. But as he watched the setting sun reflect in gold on the bulrushes along Lakeshore Drive, he felt 30 spots qualified as a notable accomplishment.

“I got exhausted. And that got kind of tired when, you know, you just pull off something that you weren’t really sure was possible,” he said. “It’s a real feeling of achievement to do something difficult, even if nobody knows it can be done.”

‘Never bring glass to a swimming hole’ 

Sidlar said he doesn’t have a favourite swimming hole in the region. For him, there are times of day, times of year, weather patterns and moods to fit all locations, from coarse to granular sand to rocks, from still water to rapid current to waterfalls.

can you top this swimming achievement 30 swims in 30 spots around thunder bay in 12 hours 1
The lakes and rivers around Thunder Bay are famous for being beautiful — and cold! (Submitted by Kevin Sidlar)

On his 30-dip day, however, one swim stood out above all the others.

“There’s a spot on Surprise Lake — it was the perfect time of day, the sun was shining just perfect on that spot, it was unusually warm and it was one of those perfect moments right then.”

He encourages everyone to assemble their own map and attempt as many swimming spots as they can in a day.

“I want to experience the outdoors as fully as I can. It’s like how artists create a painting: I curate a perfect experience where every aspect is right,” he said.

“We are just so blessed to live here, where this is possible. We have so much nature around us that is so accessible. All we have to do is make sure it’s not spoiled with garbage and broken glass. Never bring glass to a swimming hole.”

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