BIG SWIMMERS

What you need to know.

Get ready for the swim of your life!

The BIG SWIM is not a race and supports swimmers of all abilities to get out into the Northumberland Strait and achieve the unimaginable. We welcome new and experienced swimmers alongside both the old and the young. If you dare to dream we will help you make it happen.

Whether you want to add some ‘extra’ training to your Ironman calendar or need a reason to get off the couch, the Northumberland Strait is out there waiting for you. Combine it with raising funds for one of Nova Scotia’s worthiest charities and you might just have the best thing you will do this summer. Let’s do it!

FAQs for Swimmers

Do I have to wear a wetsuit?

That is up to you. Most swimmers prefer the warmth of a wetsuit and the additional buoyancy that it provides. The large majority of our participants have chosen to wear a wetsuit (made of neoprene, NOT a surf suit). Xterra Wetsuits have been a great supporter of The BIG SWIM and offer a very competitive price on their website here.

Do I have to wear a swim cap?

Yes. For safety reasons we will give you a colour-coded latex cap that MUST be worn. If you prefer the warmer silicone caps, then you should wear that one below this cap we give you. It will be a very bright colour and will have meaning to the people watching over your safety that day from the boats. This is mandatory. If you have a latex allergy, please plan to wear a silicone one under your issued latex heat one.

How far and in what direction is the swim?

The BIG SWIM will follow a path similar to the direction of the Confederation Bridge. Straight line distance is approximately 13 km. Depending on your speed and direction you may be swimming 15-17+ km or more depending on conditions and your pace.

Your kayaker is responsible for keeping you on course and the safety and operations vessels will keep the kayakers on course. The route will depend on the tides, currents and weather forecast for event day. The planned route will be presented and discussed at the mandatory Safety Meeting on Saturday.

What about the tides?

The BIG SWIM planning committee has chosen August 18th as the ideal day for this year’s event. This date has been chosen in order to utilize the tide and currents to the best advantage of the swimmers.

You will be swimming out with the tide and most swimmers will finish with the current at their back. Although The BIG SWIM will use the tides to the swimmer’s advantage, the currents near the finish can be difficult. Be sure to leave some gas in the tank for your final push!!

Will there be waves in the Strait?

Yes, there will be waves and you may also experience swells and chop depending on the conditions. You may experience turbulent waters when you are swimming near the Confederation Bridge as the waves bounce off the bridge pillars.

Some swimmers experience sea sickness that may be caused by the motion of the water and/or swallowing salt water while swimming. We strongly recommend that you train in open water and salt water prior to The BIG SWIM to experience these conditions before event day.

** Past swimmers have used Ginger Gravol to combat any upset stomachs and sea sickness.

Rest assured that if the wind or waves are high enough to be unsafe to swimmers or paddlers, the swim will be suspended, postponed or cancelled.

Will I swim under the Confederation Bridge?

Most participants cross under the bridge at least once during The BIG SWIM. The currents can cause some swirling around the pillars of the bridge. Listen to your kayaker and stay away from the pillars. Work with your kayaker to plan your crossing to be in the middle of the pillars. Your kayaker should position themselves between you and the closest pillar during the crossing. It is a very cool experience to see the bridge from below!

Will there be boats on the water to watch us?

Yes. In addition to the kayaker that accompany each swimmer, there are spare kayakers and safety boats on the water to track swimmers, assist participants as necessary, and to ensure the safety of all participants during the swim. These safety boats are responsible for emergency retrieval of swimmers or kayakers, if it becomes necessary.

What should I bring with me on The BIG SWIM?

You will develop your own list of required items as you complete your swim training. These are suggestions to give you an idea of what your kit might look like. You will need to work with your kayaker to store the following in the kayak for your swim:

  • All food and drink you will want/need for your swim. You will have experimented with nutrition during your training and should know what foods work best for you during long swims. We recommend both water and electrolyte fluids, enough for you to drink about a 500ml bottle/hour. Several past swimmers used a Platypus Hydration System instead of bringing several bottles.
  • Any swimming equipment you might need like extra goggles. You may wish to pack fins and/or paddles in the event that you need a boost to get through an eddy or to the finish.
  • Personal care items like sunscreen, mouthwash (some like to use this to reduce the taste of salt water and limit the swelling of your tongue which may occur in salt water), something to help with seasickness (i.e. ginger tablets/gravol), Vaseline or another lubricant (to help reduce the chaffing that your wetsuit may cause).
  • Water shoes or flip-flops: The shoreline, although mostly sandy, does have some rocky sections, the rocks are covered in barnacles and there are numerous small hermit crabs.
  • Phone or camera with a waterproof/tethered case. It’s wonderful to see some pictures of your epic feat afterward.
  • Dry bags or other dry storage for your stuff.Keep in mind that your kayaker also needs to store their equipment and nutrition in the small storage compartments available. Make sure you have everything you need for a comfortable, supported swim but leave the kitchen sink at home. We suggest that you speak to your kayaker in advance about how to package your gear for their boat.
  • A good attitude and a belief that we are all capable of so much more than we can even begin to comprehend!

Take a look at this video that suggests what you and your kayaker will want to bring with you during the swim:

What should I do with stuff I need on the other side?

Any items you want at the finish line should be given to a friend or family member who will be meeting you at the finish line. You will likely want dry clothes, shoes and some recovery food/drinks.

What if the weather is bad and we can’t go?

Safety is the #1 factor in the decision to go ahead with The BIG SWIM. The decision to start the event will lie solely in the hands of the event organizers and Sea Captain(s)/Safety Officer.

The weather will be monitored in the days and hours leading up to the swim.

What happens if I get in trouble or I can’t continue?

Again, safety is our #1 concern and that means getting everyone safely to PEI, whether you swim there or arrive on a boat. There is a detailed removal plan for participants who need it and there are boats on the water available to come and get you. If you feel you can’t continue:

  • Notify your kayaker immediately and they will signal and/or call for a rescue boat to come pick you up.
  • Your kayaker will have a spare flotation device and will provide this to you to wear while waiting for the rescue boat.
  • Remain calm and floating in the water beside the kayak until the boat arrives. The boat will transport you to a larger boat or to shore. Do not hang onto the kayak as you risk tipping it.

If you are struggling but not ready to stop your swim:

  • Communicate with your kayaker. You may need to rest for a few minutes or to hydrate and consume more nutrition.
  • Your kayaker can help talk you through a bad mental stretch and give you your fins/paddles if you packed them. Many swimmers experience moments when they are not sure they can finish.

Please note that the swimmer is at the bottom of the Safety Chain of Command and if your kayaker or other supervisor determines that it is unsafe for you to continue, you will be pulled from the water for your own safety and taken to shore.

Will the event be timed?

If you want to know your total swim time, please plan to monitor this yourself or ask your kayaker to assist you (in advance of the swim). The organizers of the event will not be recording the times.

What happens when I get to the finish line?

When you reach the beach, you will be greeted by BIG SWIM volunteers who will present you with a BIG SWIM Medal. Volunteers will then help you to the finish area. You are REQUIRED to proceed directly to the finish area and be checked by the paramedic for a quick evaluation before doing anything else.

Should I drive home afterwards?

Absolutely not! You will be tired from completing The BIG SWIM and we strongly urge you not to drive that afternoon. Please arrange to get a ride home or to your local accommodations with a family member or friend.

Will there be transportation for me to get back to NB (Nature Centre)?

We strongly recommend that you have a friend/family member meet you in PEI – not only is it lovely to have a cheerleader, they can also have a change of clothes for you to change after the swim along with a drive back across the bridge.

Please arrange to get a ride home or to your local accommodations with a family member or friend.

How long will it take me?

During BIG SWIM 2014, a swimmer completed the swim in less than 3 hours and 24 minutes setting a world record for the fastest Northumberland Strait crossing without the assistance of a wetsuit.

The average time can range from 4.5 hours to 6.5 hours. Some swimmers have taken up to 8+ hours.

Can I bring/wear fins?

Yes. There is nothing wrong with wearing fins if required. It’s a good idea to have them in your kayak just in case you need them. Then you at least have another option instead of outright stopping.

Am I making a difference?

ABSOLUTELY!! You are inspiring people by showing them that everyone can achieve something extraordinary.

This is no small feat and you should be incredibly proud of the money you are raising for Brigadoon Village.

How much do I need to fundraise?

Each swimmer must raise a minimum $1,500 BEFORE the event weekend.

If you haven’t submitted a minimum of $1,500, we cannot allow you to participate in the event.

GIVETOLIVE can help you get your fundraising going if you need direction. Please reach out to us at bigswimdirector@givetolive.ca if you need ideas or assistance.

How much will we raise as a group?

The overall goal of this year’s BIG SWIM is to raise a minimum of $150,000 in support of Brigadoon Village.

Can I raise money for another charity?

GIVETOLIVE has an agreement in place with Brigadoon Village and we have committed that the funds raised will go to Brigadoon. Although there are lots of other worthy organizations, we cannot accommodate the requests to fundraise for any other organization at this time.

What percent of the money raised goes to expenses?

GIVETOLIVE and The BIG SWIM strive to keep expenses to a minimum. Your registration fee will cover most of the expenses for your participation in this event.

GIVETOLIVE is seeking Corporate Sponsorships to support The BIG SWIM, along with donations of food, water and equipment rentals to ensure that we maximize the amount raised for Brigadoon Village. If you are interested in sponsoring the swim or donating supplies, please let us know by emailing bigswimdirector@givetolive.ca.

What will the water temperature be in the Northumberland Strait?

The water temperature is likely to be about 18-20°C (66-70°F). The water tends to be warmer in the shallow areas near the shore and cooler in the middle where it is deep and there are currents.

The air temperature and wind will have a big impact on how warm or cool you feel in the water, independent of the water temperature.

What if it is really hot?

Having enough water to prevent dehydration is very important. Periodically opening your wetsuit to allow some new water to come in contact with your skin can help cool you down. Carry sunscreen with you for frequent reapplication if it is very sunny.

Can I leave my kayaker if he/she has an issue?

No. This is a safety violation and will cause us to end your swim. You need to stay near your kayak at all times. If your kayaker requires assistance you should help them stay calm and call for additional assistance, as required. If you leave your kayaker and an event organizer sees you, you will be pulled from the water and not allowed to finish.

FAQs for All Interested Participants

Is it safe?

The safety of each participant (Swimmers, Kayakers, and Volunteers) is paramount in every decision made. Everything we do and every decision we make will be guided by safety. Nothing is worth the risk of injury or worse. Our #1 goal is: All swimmers in and all swimmers out safely.

This requires a team effort and understanding that all decisions made are based on safety and may override participants preferences. GIVETOLIVE has been running endurance events for eight years and we have an excellent safety record. We thank you for your understanding and cooperation to continue our record that includes no major incidents.

There is a MANDATORY safety meeting for all participants on the Saturday before the swim. Details of the safety plan, route and many other event day questions will be discussed in detail at this meeting. You must attend the meeting in order to do the swim.

Who is in charge on the day of the swim?

We take safety very seriously. It is our #1, #2, and #3 goal for the event. On the day of the event, there is a chain of command that all participants and volunteers must obey. That chain of command is as follows:

  1. Captain(s) in Charge/Safety Officer
  2. Event Director/Core Kayaker Team
  3. Boat Operators
  4. Lifeguards
  5. Kayakers
  6. Swimmers

Swimmers MUST OBEY everyone else in the chain of command. All other people in the chain of command are in a more senior position than a swimmer and all people can remove you from the water for safety reasons. This is imperative to the success of a safely run event. If anything goes wrong (weather worsens, waves pick up, someone gets sick), then all swimmers agree that it is not their call on whether they continue swimming or not.

How do I get to the BIG SWIM event?

Each participant is responsible for getting themselves to and from the BIG SWIM. The BIG SWIM starts at Cape Jourimain Nature Centre, Cape Jourimain, NB and finishes on Beach Road in Borden – Carleton, PEI.

When do I need to be at Cape Jourimain Nature Centre?

The BIG SWIM 2019 schedule

What do I do about food?

There is an organized dinner available for all participants, volunteers, friends and family following the MANDATORY safety meeting (~5:30pm) at the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre. These tickets are available for purchase in advance here. All other meals are your responsibility. There is a limited selection of food at the Cape Jourimain National Wildlife Area as well as a variety of restaurants in Gateway Village on PEI.

All participants are responsible for their own food and drink on the day of the swim. Please pack everything you would need to keep you hydrated and nourished through the SWIM itself.

What about breakfast on the morning of the swim?

All participants are responsible for their own food and drink on the day of the swim. Please pack everything you would need to keep you hydrated and nourished through the SWIM itself.

Where do I sleep?

There are a limited number of accommodations in the close proximity to the Confederation Bridge. You need to book your accommodations yourself and we recommend you do that right away. Here is a list of some recommended options where our participants have stayed in the past.

Tourism New Brunswick and Tourism PEI can be a great place to start as well.

Hotels/B&Bs

The Coastal Cabins (Formerly C & O Coastal Cabins)
113 Dixon Rd Loop
Cape Tormentine, NB E4M 2B7
(506) 538-9990
office@pg-constrade.com

Victoria Veranda Bed & Breakfast
1 West Main St.
Port Elgin, NB
(506) 538-0089

Indian Point B&B Motel
323 Fort St.
Port Elgin, NB
(506) 538-7586

Pumpkin Inn B&B
9 Mill St.
Port Elgin, NB
(506) 538-1906

Little Shemogue Inn
2361 Route 955,
Little Shemogue, NB
(506) 538-2320

Campgrounds

Murray Beach Campground
1679 Route 955
Little Shemogue, NB
(506) 538-2628

Cape Tormentine Beach Campground
1 Route 955
Cape Tormentine, NB
(506) 538-7229

Hotels/B&Bs

Slumber Westhill
29 Westhill Dr.
Charlottetown, PE
(902) 894-9555

Holiday Inn Express & Suites
200 Capital Dr.
Charlottetown, PE
(902) 892-1201

Best Western Charlottetown
238 Grafton St.
Charlottetown, PE
(902) 892-2461

Elmwood Heritage Inn
121 N River Rd.
Charlottetown, PE
(902) 368-3310

Find more options here:
Charlottetown Hotels

Campgrounds

Jellystone Park PEI
23714 Trans-Canada Hwy.
Borden-Carleton, PE
1-844-734-9644

Cumberland Cove Seaside Campground
Cumberland Cove Rd., PE
(902) 855-2961

Hotels/Motels

Marshlands Inn
55 Bridge St.
Sackville, NB
(506) 536-0170

Coastal Inn Sackville
15 Wright St.
Sackville, NB
(506) 536-0000

Tantramar Motel
4 Robson Ave.
Sackville, NB
(506) 536-1327

Hotels/B&Bs

Auberge Wild Rose Inn
17 Baseline Rd.
Moncton, NB
(506) 383-9751

Comfort Inn East
20 Maplewood Dr.
Moncton, NB
(506) 859-6868

Holiday Inn Express & Suites
425 Adelard Savoie Blvd.
Dieppe, NB
(506) 388-5050

Fairfield Inn & Suites Moncton
26 Marriott Dr.
Moncton, NB
(506) 855-0033

Best Western Plus
300 Lewisville Rd.
Moncton, NB
(506) 388-0888

Find more options here:
Moncton Hotels

What time are we starting the swim?

The start time is calculated based on tides and currents. A decision will be made closer to the event. The exact start times will be announced at the safety meeting on August 17th. We leave as early as we can on Sunday, August 18th morning.

Everyone will need to be at the Cape Jourimain beach start point at least 30 minutes before the first wave enters the water. At this point, we will estimate that everyone is ready to go for 7am Sunday, August 18th.

Do we all start together?

Swimmers will be starting in waves (no pun intended) based on their anticipated pace. There will be 3 waves and they will be launched at intervals of approximately 15 minutes. Please note that we monitor the weather, tides and currents carefully and that the launch times cannot be confirmed prior to the safety meeting on Saturday. Plan to be flexible with the schedule on Sunday morning and to be on time getting to the beach.

If I’m in the last wave do I need to be there for the start of the first wave?

Yes! Although you may be on the beach for some time before you start, the beginning of the BIG SWIM is exciting and everyone should experience it together. It is also possible that the heat start times may be adjusted in response to conditions so it’s important for everyone to be on the beach and ready to go.

Do we have to worry about other boat traffic?

This is an open boating area and there may be other boats on the water during the swim. However, we notify the Coast Guard and other boating agencies of the event well in advance and our logistics team will be in regular communication with the Coast Guard and the Marine Traffic Centre to ensure that all boats are aware of our presence and diverted away from participants.

Will there be paramedics, lifeguards, and other emergency personnel?

Yes. There will be lifeguards on the safety boats and on the beach at the finish line. There will be medical professionals waiting at the finish line to check each swimmer and kayaker at the end of their swim. There is an emergency plan with EMS personnel on PEI in the event of an on-water emergency.

Are there bathrooms available during the swim?

Practically, no. Bathrooms are available before the start at the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre and port-a-potties are available at the finish area in PEI. During the swim, there are very limited facilities on the larger safety boats.

It can take an extended period of time for a safety boat to reach you for a bathroom break as we cannot sacrifice swimmer safety for the luxury of a toilet. We urge you to arrive early to the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre on the morning of the swim so you can make use of the facilities there before the swim.

Are there bathrooms available during the swim?

Practically, no. Bathrooms are available before the start at the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre and port-a-potties are available at the finish area in PEI. During the swim, there are very limited facilities on the larger safety boats.

It can take an extended period of time for a safety boat to reach you for a bathroom break as we cannot sacrifice swimmer safety for the luxury of a toilet. We urge you to arrive early to the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre on the morning of the swim so you can make use of the facilities there before the swim.

What happens if the weather gets bad?

The weather plays a key role in the safety of The BIG SWIM. We will discuss the weather forecast and the weather contingency plans in detail at the mandatory Safety Meeting on Saturday. There is a detailed evacuation plan in place in the event that weather degrades during the swim to the point that the event must be stopped. If required, the safety boats will remove all of the participants from the water and get them to shore.

Will I see wildlife?

Maybe. The Northumberland Strait is home to jellyfish, numerous types of fish and marine mammals. The timing of this year’s event means that it’s unlikely that jelly fish will be present in any significant numbers. In past events swimmers have encountered almost no wildlife. The occasional seal or dolphin has been seen in the distance by kayakers.