Regardless of weather, Manitowaning woman celebrates one year of daily swims

On September 14, Rebecca Mende of Manitowaning celebrated her 365th swim of the year.

MANITOWANING – There are many countries and places in the world where someone taking a swim every day of the year wouldn’t be a big deal, in fact it might be expected in areas with warm climates. But that wouldn’t normally include Manitoulin Island, especially in the winter. But for an Assiginack township woman, not only has she taken a dip in Manitowaning Bay each day for the past year and enjoyed it, it has also proven to be physically beneficial as well.

Beginning September 15, 2020, until September 14 of this year, Rebecca Mende of Manitowaning has taken a daily swim in, at times, the frigid waters of Manitowaning Bay. 

“I actually started to take daily swims in April 2018,” Ms. Mende told The Expositor. “This past winter was my third winter doing this.” 

Ms. Mende explained as part of a deep breathing workshop she had attended, one of the options that were suggested was to have a swim every day. “I know, it seemed crazy to me as well at first. But I Googled benefits to the immune system, and swimming every day increases a body’s circulation and since I had heel problems, just standing up for awhile would put me in intense pain by the end of the day.” She also had the early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrists. Swimming every day has helped to alleviate both.

“The first year I went swimming every day, I did this until the water froze and I couldn’t break through it, so for one-and-a-half months I had no access to the water,” said Ms. Mende. “So I carried on by taking cold showers every day.”

Ms. Mende’s longest swim over the past year was nine minutes on December 2, 2020, in Wiikwemkoong. “Last winter was my third winter of taking a daily swim,” Ms. Mende told The Expositor. She said during the past year’s 365 sojourn of swimming every day, she hit 100 days, then at day 157 she was considering stopping. But she kept on going (and still is daily), reaching 250 days. “Then one day I was just exhausted and as I was chopping away at the ice with an axe I just thought, ‘it’s time to take a break,’ and it was at that time I received a text from a friend of mine and she said ‘you can’t stop, I’ll send someone done to the bay to cut the ice for you.’ So, a gentleman showed up a few minutes later with a chainsaw and cut a hole in the ice so I could go for a swim in the bay.” 

Swimming every day for an entire year, “has been a beautiful journey, everyone has been so supportive and helped out when I needed it,” said Ms. Mende. “Now I can’t imagine not taking a daily swim.” She swims in a bathing suit and wears water socks and protection for feet and hands in cold weather. 

“I have no problem with my heels or my wrists anymore,” stated Ms. Mende. She has lived in Manitowaning for the past seven years having lived previously in Garson. She is originally from Sault Ste. Marie. 

The Assiginack Township Instagram account announced on Ms. Mende’s 365th straight day of taking a daily swim, “A huge congratulations to Assiginack resident Rebecca Mende for making today her 365th consecutive swim. Rebecca has gone for a swim every single day for the past year now. That shows dedication and commitment.”