Shuswap Lake, BC - Stuart Ballantyne
Our family spent many holiday weekends and vacations on the south shore of Shuswap Lake at the lakefront home of our grandparents. From an early age the lake was our recreation and learning to swim was mandatory for my brother, cousins and I.
Swimming was fun but the one item that marked your coming of age at the lake was the right to get to use a mask and fins. Our parents would not buy them for us until we could swim to the water gauge pole and back to the dock. This was a big and scary challenge in the mind of a five year old. The water gauge pole seemed so far away (it was probably less than 25 metres offshore). However, getting to use a mask and fins was paramount to seeing the lake's treasures and a real goal to me. The freedom and confidence bestowed from a simple swim to a pole and back would make or break a summer vacation at the lake. I attempted the challenge, swam to the pole, touched it and made my way back to the dock. I had done it!
The following summer of 1967 our family was relocating to BC and heading to Shuswap Lake for our annual vacation on route to our new home in Burnaby. I was excited to get my new fins and mask and to use them at the lake. My parents bought them for me and they included a snorkel in the form of a replica Aqualung. I was over the moon. During the drive across Western Canada my mother and I were involved in a single car accident in the Rogers Pass. I was injured pretty bad and spent a few days in hospital in Revelstoke. Many stitches and bruises later I got the bad news that swimming was not going to be one of the activities for me as I healed. Devastated I sat on the beach for two weeks wearing my mask, fins and Aqualung snorkel wishing myself well and dreaming of coming back to the lake next summer.
Swimming became a big part of life as I joined the Wolf Cubs swimming team and eventually the Killarney Swim Club. Water was my life as I climbed through the age groups to the national team and university swimming. Throughout my swimming career the swim to the water gauge pole was the first and most important goal of my life. Goal setting and a true sense of achievement were instilled in me and it all started on the south shores of Shuswap Lake.