Jennifer Agnew


Age: 59

Hometown: Harrow, ON

Swim Distance: 5km relay

Favourite Lake Memory: My favourite memory is going to Point Pelee as a teenager in a van with a bunch of friends with a canoe on top and having a picnic, swimming, canoeing, having a bonfire - spending the whole day - the weather was perfect!

Jennifer is an accomplished open water swimmer with a long history of competitive swimming as well as playing on water polo teams through University. Jennifer was one of our swimmers in the 2018 Swim for Erie Challenge on the North Shore of Lake Erie and will be joining us again for the 2020 Lake Erie Challenge. Growing up in Windsor she spent summers at Point Pelee and Colchester Beach having family picnics on the lake. She now lives on the shores of Lake Erie and wouldn’t have it any other way. 

 Jennifer is excited to participate in the Lake Erie Challenge this year in hopes that it will raise awareness about the issues in Lake Erie. The first time she witnessed an algal bloom she was surprised that local people were not up in arms about it, she wants that to change! She believes it’s important to convince politicians to take action on all the shores of Lake Erie. 

The Canadian Freshwater Alliance had a chat with Jennifer to talk about her upcoming swim, her training regimen and her connection to Freshwater and the Lake. 

CFA: What are your reasons for competing in the Lake Erie Challenge this year?

JA: I’d like to bring awareness to the importance of the health of the lake. The first time I witnessed an algal bloom I just couldn’t believe that people weren’t up in arms about it. We have this beautiful lake that we can swim and kayak on and fish out of but if there is an algal bloom, we have to keep your animals away or they can get sick and die, don’t swim in it or you can get sick. I keep thinking why aren’t people outraged by this? I just find it appalling that we could continue to pollute the lake and allow this to happen. If it gets worse we’re just going to look at it and let it happen? Just loving swimming so much, having the lake there and not being able to swim in it would be horrible. I remember as a kid when it got really polluted and you couldn’t swim in it and I don't want it to go back to that. 


CFA: Can you tell us about your first memories of Lake Erie? How often do you spend time on the Lake?

JA: I grew up in Windsor so my first memories were probably at about 8 or 9 years old going to Point Pelee and Colchester Beach with my family and swimming in the lake and having family picnics. I get to spend everyday on the Lake since I live on the lake. Swimming on the lake isn’t always possible because some days it’s really really rough. 


CFA: What do you love about Lake Erie?

JA: I love it for swimming and it’s a great lake to fish out of too! Since it’s a shallower lake, it’s awesome how fast it warms up - a lot faster than a lot of the other lakes. I have friends that swim up in Lake Ontario and they say the lake just turned over again so now it’s in single digits and the water is freezing. We never have that problem here, so we can pretty much swim from May through October. 


CFA: What does your training regimen for this kind of crossing look like? Are there any other sports or workout routines that you incorporate into training?

JA: Usually I’d swim about 4k at practice with the Windsor Essex Masters Swim Team, but now the pool is closed due to COVID-19. I’m lucky to live on the lake and have a friend with a backyard pool I can use. I try to swim everyday but it varies depending on the conditions of the lake whether I swim 1k or 4k, I certainly haven’t swam 10k. Whether I complete 5 or 10k on the day, will depend on how wavy it is. 

I do yoga a few times a week and I used to do training at the gym 3 times a week which we haven't been able to do since COVID hit. So instead I’ve been doing some free weight training at home and swimming specific stretches to help avoid shoulder injuries and a lot more walking now that swim practice and the gym are closed hahaha! 


CFA: Have you participated in competitions of this scale before?

JA: In 2018, I completed the Canadian Freshwater Alliance Swim for Erie Event where we swam in 10 different spots in Lake Erie and tributaries for an hour each over 24 hours. It was very challenging. Of course it was on an unusually cold night. At 3am when you’re freezing after swimming in the lake 6 or 7 times already and you have to go in again and it’s cold out, it’s challenging. The swim wasn’t that hard; it was psyching yourself up to go back in when you’re cold!


Donate here to support Jennifer in the challenge!