As the proverb goes, ‘blood is thicker than water.’ But for some, water is in their blood.

Meet Kim Lumsdon. As the only daughter of Cliff Lumsdon, famed Canadian marathon swimmer and world champion, it’s no wonder that Kim is an accomplished open water swimmer.

Kim’s father used to top in the circuit when he swam pro, and Kim was among the top five swimmers in the world in the women’s division for pro races. Both Kim and her father are inductees in the Etobicoke Sports Hall of Fame.

Kim was born with twisted legs, which caused her knees to dislocate. She had pins put in her legs at age 12, and had knee surgery later in life. Yet even her knees didn’t stop her from swimming staggering distances.

Growing up, Kim would accompany her father in his travels to compete, from Quebec to Egypt and beyond. Kim’s family spent a lot of time with the famous Marilyn Bell, the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. Kim’s mother, Joan, paced Marilyn during the celebrated swim.

So yes, you might say the water is in her blood.

Destined for the open water

Kim learned to swim as a baby. Encouraged by her father, she was already doing competitive swimming at the age of nine. Kim enjoyed competitive pool swimming, but she was best at long distance swims.

She has fond memories of training in the Port Credit River with her father in the 1970s, the same place he had accompanied Marilyn Bell in the 1950s. Kim remembers doing eight hour swims from the mouth of the river up the QEW with her dad in the boat encouraging her through every stroke.

Port Credit River. Photo by Randy Landicho

By the time she was 16, Kim already had her sights set on crossing Lake Ontario. Her father (also her coach) advised her that she wasn’t yet ready at 16. He suggested she take more time to get her swimming up to par and be more mature before attempting the feat.

Three years later, Kim crossed Lake Ontario in 1976 at only 19. The weather was stormy, but she persevered. Over 21 hours and 27 minutes, she swam from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Ontario Place.

Thirty years after that, Kim completed her second crossing of Lake Ontario in 2006 at the age of 49. The water was rough all night, and as she reached the Toronto Islands, the water dropped to 54 °C with 6 hours of swimming to go. Paced by her daughter and filled with determination, Kim made it to shore once again.

“My Lake Ontario swims hold a special place in my heart.”

Kim’s first Lake Ontario crossing in 1976. Photo Courtesy of Kim Lumsdon

In the near future, Kim plans to make a third and final swim across Lake Ontario. She attempted a third swim in 2013, but had to exit the water about 5 kilometers from shore because of a fierce thunderstorm.

Kim has her sights set on 2021 for her next Lake Ontario crossing, but even if it doesn’t happen in her planned timeline, she’s certain that one day she will cross Lake Ontario again.

“I’d really like my grandchildren to see me come in. Maybe one of them will take over open water swimming after I’m finished.”

This isn’t to say that Kim is anywhere near finished. She’s 63 and still going strong! Kim has been keeping herself fit, and she always feels better after she works out. She hopes to be long distance swimming for years to come.

Cherry Beach: home

Cherry Beach in Toronto, Ontario is Kim’s home beach. It’s where she has always trained, and it’s where she still trains today.

Kim has been swimming at Cherry Beach since May, when she bravely spent an hour in Lake Ontario’s frigid 49 °C waters. Kim says that she will probably swim at Cherry Beach until October or November.

A rower at Cherry Beach. Photo by Swim Drink Fish

“Lake Ontario is my favourite lake. I love Lake Ontario because it’s such a big body of water. It’s a challenge for me, but that’s what I like about it. It’s a hard lake and you have to train hard for it.”

Six days a week—sometimes seven—you can find Kim swimming at Cherry Beach early in the morning. Bathed in the glow of the rising sun, Kim can lose herself for a while. The quiet and serenity make her feel like she can swim forever.

Cherry Beach. Photo by Swim Drink Fish

“I love being in the water alone. I have a route at Cherry Beach that I take all the time. It runs along the shore. I like watching the land, the dog park. I like looking at the weeds, rocks, and the fish that follow me around.”

Kim prefers shoreline swims to swimming in the middle of the lake. Not only is it more meters and miles, it’s also more interesting, which keeps her going.

Cherry Beach. Photo by Swim Drink Fish

Kim sees all kinds of wildlife at Cherry Beach, especially birds. Seagulls fly overhead towards the Leslie Street Spit, ducks swim around her, and graceful swans are everywhere. Beautiful as they are, though, the swans can have quite a temper.

Kim once had a close encounter with a swan at Sunnyside beach when she swam too close to its babies. She was chased out of the water right up onto the beach! Kim understands the importance of sharing the water with its native inhabitants.

Photo by Tom Flemming

Making a difference

Kim always tries to swim for a charitable cause because she wants to put something beneficial into her open water crossings.

Her Lake Ontario crossing in 2006 was in support of The Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund. She raised awareness and over $15,000 so that thousands of underprivileged kids could go to summer camp.

Her 2013 Lake Ontario attempt was in support of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. In the past, Kim has coached swimmers with cancer. The cause is close to Kim as well as her friends and family.

Kim recognizes how crucial environmental advocacy is, too. When she lived in the west end of the GTA, she often saw pollution and debris coming out of the Humber River and into Lake Ontario. She’s also seen pollution as a lifeguard at Sunnyside and Marie Curtis Beach.

Humner River. Photo by Michael

Kim recalls that out in the middle of Lake Ontario, the water was so clean she could see 20 feet down. She knows this is how the water is meant to look.

As an open water swimmer, Kim appreciates how lucky she is to have a lake that’s so beautiful and so close to home. She feels the urgency of preserving such a vital place for recreation, community, and ecology.

“We need to look after Lake Ontario and its beaches for the community. If there weren’t organizations like Swim Drink Fish doing environmental restoration and protection work, we wouldn’t be able to swim there, especially now, when we need that connection to nature more than ever.”

Find Kim’s home beach on Swim Guide here.

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