Meet the B.C. man who swims to work

·2 min read
Brent Hobbs swims to work twice a week. (Tom Popyk/CBC - image credit)
Brent Hobbs swims to work twice a week. (Tom Popyk/CBC - image credit)

Some people walk to work, some take the bus or a train and a few might even take a ferry. Many drive to work, often in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Brent Hobbs of Kelowna, B.C., swims.

He makes his way along the shore of Okanagan Lake to work twice a week, about 1.8 kilometres. He estimates it takes him about 30 minutes, and he carries his laptop and a change of clothes in a waterproof bag.

"No better way of getting to work," he told CBC's Joseph Otoo after one of his morning commutes.

"It's nice and cool, but more than that, I'm having fun."

Hobbs, who works in management at Interior Health, sees wildlife on his swims, such as beavers and osprey. Once, he says he got too close to a beaver and it slapped him with its tail.

The 54-year-old has been swimming all his life. Growing up on Vancouver Island, he dreamt of swimming to nearby islands. When he turned 40, he swam the English Channel, an icy 33-kilometre journey between France and England.

"I do marathon swims. I train for triathlon," he said. "If there's an epic snowfall, I'll cross-country ski to work. I look for innovative, non-carbon-polluting ways to get to work, and it's healthy."

Tom Popyk/CBC
Tom Popyk/CBC

In the morning, he says, the lake is calm and easy to swim. By the end of the day, boats and wind have created a more challenging situation.

"It can get pretty gnarly."'

Okanagan Lake can be dangerous; according to the province, there were 28 drownings in the lake from 2008 to 2018. Just a week ago, on Aug. 12, a 26-year-old man drowned in the lake, according to RCMP.

Hobbs acknowledges the risks associated with doing a gruelling lake swim twice a day and encourages everyone, young and old, to take swimming lessons and practise water safety.

In fact, he said he is currently working with two Nigerian immigrants to teach them to swim and float.

"It's very rewarding," he said.

When Hobbs swims under the William R. Bennett Bridge and sees a stream of cars backed up all the way across, he knows he's making the right choice for himself.

"I just say to myself, I could swim faster across that bridge than you can drive across that bridge. And I will dare anyone to a race to that effect in rush hour and we'll see who gets across faster and who burns the most calories and is the most refreshed and the most relaxed getting home or getting to work."