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Swimmer completes #LakeErieChallenge for conservation

It took Daniel Zin about 10 hours to swim 26.5 kilometres at night, going from Long Point, Ont. to Port Dover, Ont.

This was Daniel Zin's first open-swim experience

Daniel Zin originally wanted to complete the challenge in August, but weather conditions weren't in his favour. (Josh Reid)

Daniel Zin wanted to help out the Great Lakes. So he joined up to take part in the Lake Erie Challenge, started by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.

It took Zin about 10 hours to swim 26.5 kilometres at night, going from Long Point, Ont. to Port Dover, Ont. 

And it was his first ultra open-swim experience. 

"It just seemed like a perfect way to use my love of open water swimming as a vessel or a vehicle to convey that message of spreading awareness and contributing funds to help combat some of these issues plaguing our freshwater systems," Zin said.

Zin was supposed to complete the challenge back in August, but the weather wasn't in his favour. The forecast models showed his best success would be at night.

Organizers changed the route and completed the swim on Sept. 7. Zin said it was an experience he won't forget.

Zin said he has conducted night swims in the past, but usually only close to the shoreline. (Josh Reid)

"It was crazy. We left that night," Zin said. "[It] was choppy or dark, like pitch black. It was cold. I don't even know how I did it, but somehow I just caught them putting one arm in front of the other and then I arrived at the beach."

Zin had experience swimming at night, but that was closer to the shoreline, meaning he was previously able to rely on light from nearby homes. It was much different in the midst of the lake.

"So it's pitch, pitch dark. The only light you have is my kayaker had a light, so I was using him for sighting," Zin said. "The kayaker was using the light of the navigational boat. That's it."

There were a few moments of panic when he first got in the water, because it was so cold. He said the water was about 18 C. He eventually calmed down and began his swim. 

Daniel Zin took on a challenging swim in Lake Erie last weekend from Long Point to Port Dover. He swam 26.5 km, at night. The swim took ten hours. Afternoon Drive caught up with Zin after he reached some solid ground. 7:41

During the 10 hours, there was a lot of time to think. He spent some of it playing music in his head or singing to himself.

"At times I was planning out my life," Zin said. "Other times I was questioning what I was doing."

He isn't sure he could have made it without his support team, who encouraged him along the way. The crew included his wife, aunt, uncle and the Great Lakes Program Director for the Canadian Freshwater Alliance.

For most of the swim he felt like he was "in the zone," but it wasn't until he was close to the end of his journey, when he could hear whistles of support from the shore, that Zin really brought it home.

"I had a friend who swam out to about a mile, a mile and a half to meet me, and helped me swim in. That was really cool," said Zin. "I got a little emotional toward that part."

When Zin reached shore, he was so cold and shivering so much, he couldn't even wear a sweater. (Josh Reid)

As he got up to the shore, Zin said he was dizzy from being in motion for so long. He said it was awkward to walk and he almost fell down a couple of times. It was so cold and he was shivering so much that he couldn't even put on a sweater to help warm up.

Zin said his muscles went back to normal after a few days.

The organization is almost at its $6,000 goal for Lake Erie Guardians, which the Canadian Freshwater Alliance initiative says supports local community members who work to defend Lake Erie from environmental threats.

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