November 3, 2016 2:25 am
Updated: July 15, 2017 12:34 am

Kelowna girl completes English Channel swim, raises funds for Canuck Place

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UPDATE JULY 14, 2017 – An Okanagan teen has become the youngest Canadian to swim the English Channel.

Emily Epp took 11 hours, 57 minutes to complete the 40 km journey between England and France, ending her swim in the middle of the night, July 15, local time.

The now 17-year-old Kelowna swimmer has raised nearly $40,000 for Vancouver’s Canuck Place, a charity that has helped her family when her sister has needed medical treatment in Vancouver.

Canuck Place has created a fundraising page for Epp’s efforts, which can be found here.

ORIGINAL STORY – NOV. 3, 2016: KELOWNA, B.C. – Emily Epp is preparing to swim the English Channel next July, and will become one of the youngest if she completes the 40-kilometre distance as planned.

“I’m excited. I’m really excited,” Epp said Wednesday as she took to Okanagan Lake for the cameras. “There’s less people that do this swim than even climb Mount Everest.”

The 16-year-old member of the Kelowna AquaJets was inspired by her coach Brent Hobbs.

Hobbs swam the channel in 2008 when he turned 40, a challenge he had dreamed of as a child.

“It just captured my imagination,” Hobbs said.

Epp is hoping to raise money for Vancouver’s Canuck Place children’s hospice ahead of the swim.

Canuck Place has created a fundraising page for Epp’s efforts, which can be found here.

“We spend a lot of time there,” Epp said.

Epp’s younger sister Elan became ill when she was 18 months old and has required numerous visits to Vancouver for treatment of a mysterious illness that caused her muscles to deteriorate.

“They’ve made her life so much better. She used to scream from the pain and she used to cry.”

Elan Epp and her mother Cheryl.

Contributed/ Global Okanagan

Epp admits swimming the English Channel makes her nervous.

“I get nervous if I think too hard, if I think of all the things that could go wrong. But if I just focus on what I’m in control of, which is not the weather or any of that, then it’s exciting because I know personally I can do it mentally and physically. So it’s all up to the weather,” she said.

Hobbs said the shortest distance across the channel is 35 kilometres but dealing with currents makes the swim about 40 to 45 kilometres.

He believes it could take Epp between 10 and 14 hours in the 15 C water, “on a good day.”

“You have the Atlantic Ocean swells and you have the North Sea winds and it all converges over a shallow shelf,” Hobbs said. “That’s what makes it such a challenge. And then it’s the busiest shipping lane in the world.”

“Big ships. Lots of them. Eight hundred a day plying those waters.”

A 30-year-old Toronto man completed the swim this summer, becoming only the 28th Canadian to make the solo swim.

Hobbs said the swim is 90 per cent mental preparation.

“It gets very lonely and your mind plays tricks on you,” he said.

After swimming around Okanagan Lake Wednesday, Epp said the cold begins to comfort you after a short time.

“It hurts for a little bit,” she said. “Then after a while when your body is fully numb, it feels like a nice sauna. So warm.”

Her training has already begun in anticipation of next year’s swim.

“All through the summer, I’ve been doing long swims, my six-hour qualifier and four-hour swims. Throughout the winter, I’ll swim with my team in the pool every day.”

Her coach is impressed with her determination at such a young age.

“She’s very inspiring,” Hobbs said. “I hope she will inspire other young swimmers and older swimmers to take up similar challenges.”

Epp will make the attempt between July 21 and 24, 2017.

According to the city of Dover, 1,619 swimmers have made the solo journey across the English Channel.

The average time they’ve taken to swim the distance is 13 hours, 30 minutes, 29 seconds.

Just over a third have been women and the average age is 34.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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