Meet Daniel Zin

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In 1954, 16-year old Marilyn Bell swam across Lake Ontario in what was (and still is) considered a timeless athletic feat. The banks of the Great Lakes have long served as launching points for many a swimmer—for those enticed by what awaits them on the other side of those vast expanses of blue. Daniel Zin, a Port Dover native and high school teacher at Cayuga Secondary, is one such swimmer. Zin will be embarking on a 30km crossing from Long Point to Port Dover for the Lake Erie Challenge in August, 2019.

While open water swimming is a relatively new endeavour for Zin, he comes from a rich athletic background as a club swimmer—a sport that has taught him how to push through the discomfort that regularly challenges open water athletes. Having already completed a number of 4km and 10km swims, Zin will be pursuing additional distance swims in California this summer to prepare for the Lake Erie Challenge and training with coach Josh Reid, who swam in the challenge last year.

The Freshwater Alliance sat down with Zin to talk about his upcoming swim, his training regimen, and his connection to the lake.

CFA: Can you tell us about your first experience with Lake Erie?

D: I grew up in Grimsby, actually, which is on Lake Ontario. During high school, we would go straight to Lake Erie, and drive straight across the Niagara peninsula there to Long Beach. I remember thinking the first time I ever saw the beach there, “This is in Ontario? This is crazy!” It’s a white sand beach with beautiful water and it was awesome. Eventually, I just kept falling more and more in love with the coastline and settled in Port Dover.

CFA: What are your reasons for swimming in the Lake Erie Challenge? What’s driving you to take on this swim?

D: I grew up as a club swimmer, which meant many mornings and evenings going up and down to the pool. I got back into it 2 years ago with the open water swimming and fell back in love with the sport. I was hooked with the appreciation of where we live and this sport in general and just how natural it is. I have a really big appreciation for Lake Erie, and it breaks my heart to see the blue-green algae and what we’re doing to our lakes and freshwater systems. It just seemed like a natural relationship to forge.

CFA: How would a bad algae year (as 2019 is shaping up to be) affect your swim?

D: Oh, immensely! We’re pretty lucky out in this part of Lake Erie because it’s deeper, the water is cooler, and we’re in an end that has less urban centers—that generally helps. Also, the algae out this way has generally not been the toxic type. Long Point also shelters a lot of what makes its way into Long Point Bay. That being said, it could still very much get hit with a bad bloom and from a health perspective, if I’m swimming through that, that is very worrisome. Hopefully it doesn’t get to a state where it’s so bad that I can’t swim at all.

CFA: Can you share your pre-swim routine with us? What kind of exercise do you incorporate into training?

D: I’ve begun working with a personal trainer to work on muscular endurance and to make sure I can sustain max power in all my pulls as much as possible. Working on core will enable me to maintain my technique and efficiency through different types of waves and to make sure the waves don’t kick me off my game, so to speak. Sighting, which uses core strength, is pretty important because a 30km swim can easily turn into a 40km swim. I’m also looking to incorporate yoga into my training regiment. Elasticity of the muscles is a huge benefit, especially if you’re thinking of long, smooth strokes and minimizing the probability of injury. Ultimately, open water time is the bulk of it, to get experience in all kinds of conditions and ramping up my volume and distance and cadence.

CFA: What are you hoping that this swim will bring about in terms of change and awareness for the issues Lake Erie is facing?

D: There’s a lot of ignorance out there just around the state of our lakes. I mean, we’re sitting on blue gold but we don’t treat it like that whatsoever and that’s very disheartening. Other parts of the world are starving for the type of water that we have. In my mind, I think any sort of publicity for the state of this amazing freshwater system that we have here is a net positive.

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