The mission of the Ogopogo Summer Swim Club is to encourage personal development, accomplishment and team spirit, in an atmosphere of family involvement, through supportive youth competition.
We strive to carry out this mission in a manner that stretches us to reach our vision, to be the best swim club in Canada.
The Ogopogo Summer Swim Club has been part of the Kelowna community since at least the 1930’s. Details are few and far between, but we have tried to put together a picture of what it might have been like to be and Ogopogo, back then.
The “pool” was in the lake at City Park, and called “The Aquatic”. The Aquatic was a series of wharves connected to form a pool and diving tank in the lake, at City Park. In 1954 the City Park Aquatic facilities were remodeled, creating the new Ogopogo Stadium and Pool capable of seating up to 5000 spectators at the Kelowna Regatta. Swim meets were part of the Regatta, attracting many tourists to our City. This facility hosted most of the popular sporting activities, as well as dances and water musicals. Aquacades (an entertainment spectacle of swimmers and divers, often performing in unison to the accompaniment of music) were held on Tuesday nights. The Regatta also hosted the Canadian Northwest Championships in rowing, diving, swimming and speed boating. The Across the Lake Swim has been held for many years, still starts at the Old Ferry Dock on the Westside and finishes at the same location, Hot Sands Beach, in City Park.
Because the ”pool” was the lake, the season did not start until July. The lake was VERY cold in the first week of July. There were three practices a day: 8-9 am, 12-1 pm and 5-6 pm. Swimmers raced home between practices to eat and climb into bed to warm up.
Warm up consisted of 10 laps of each stroke; even then, swimmers complained about 10 laps butterfly!
Swimmers have travelled throughout the Okanagan, the Interior of BC and into Washington. Competitions were held in the following locales:
Pentiction (Skaha Lake)
Kamloops (Thompson River, then the outdoor pool at Riverside Park),
Savonna (Thompson River),
Invermere (Windermere Lake),
Vernon (Kalamalka Lake),
Rutland (outdoor pool)
Trail/Warfield (outdoor pool),
Mica Creek (outdoor pool),
Vancouver (UBC Empire pool)
At some competitions, weeds on the bottom of several lakes left in place to use as lane markers, instead of painted lanes.
Past swimmers have recalled sunburns, hoarse voices and a chance to eat lots of junk food at swim meets.
They recall Provincials at UBC 50 m outdoor pool that went on forever (hmmm, how some things never change). They stayed at Fort Camp or Acadia dormitory and admit that not everyone stayed in the dorm after curfew. Even back then, the Ogopogos were recipients of many individual aggregates and the occasional team aggregate.
On July 13, 1969 a fire destroyed the Ogopogo Stadium and Regatta headquarters at City Park.
Swimmers recall swimming in local hotel pools in May and June, since the lake was too cold for swimming in until July. Practices were held in the in the Capri Hotel and Red Top Motel pools for a number of years. In 1973, rather than replacing the Ogopogo Stadium, the City of Kelowna constructed a multi-purpose recreation facility, the Parkinson Recreation Centre.
There have been many changes to the Ogopogo Summer Swim Club; though they have always have been seen in black suits for racing. Black and gold used to be the team colors, rather than the black and green, we have currently.
The Ogopogos swam primarily at the Parkinson Recreation Centre from the 1970’s through to 2008. The Ogopogo Summer Swim Club, along with other local swim clubs, was instrumental in lobbying the City of Kelowna to build a 50 m pool in the Mission area. The pool was finally complete in 2008, and the Ogopogos have been fortunate to have an excellent training and competitive facility to train in.
Previous Member Anecdotes:
Janice Walker and I travelled by car with Ted Pelly (Ogopogo Coach) to a swim meet in Penticton. Ted understood that he would be reimbursed for gas for his trip and thought it would be during the trip. On the way home it was noted that we were running on empty, however, among the three of us we didn’t have any money to put gas in the car. Ted thought if we drove slower and turned off the car going down hills we would save gas. We drove 40 mph the whole way home and turned off the car to coast down any hills. We managed to get to Kelowna without running out of gas.
Sue Chambers (nee France)
I started swimming with the Ogopogo Swim Club In 1971. I was 8 years old. In those days practices in May and June were held in hotel pools as Kelowna only had the Aquatic and Okanagan Lake was not warm enough. The Aquatic was a series of wharves connected to form a pool and diving tank in the lake. While I loved swimming at the hotel pools and in the lake at my parents place on Abbott St., I hated swimming at the aquatic. The water at the Aquatic was cold and in lanes 6, 7 and 8 I couldn’t see the bottom. The cold water was bad enough but the deep water terrified me. As a result, I was constantly figuring out ways to get out of the water. One of my favourite tricks was to pull the string out of my bathing suit. When the coaches caught on to that one, I can remember one time saying that I had to go to the bathroom. Bruce Clark was our coach at the time and I remember him asking, is it number 1 or number 2? Not knowing which was which, I said number one. Bruce then said, pee in the pool! Many years later I laughed at this instruction when I realized that Bruce’s dad was Kelowna’s public health officer.
Like many former swimmers, I returned to coach to the Ogopogos. I coached the summers of 1983 and 1984. One of my most memorable swim meets as a coach was in Oliver. During one swim meet, there was a vintage plane fly-in being held the same weekend. From the pool, we could see all sorts of all World War II planes flying over head. Unfortunately, there was at least two plane crashes or accidents over the week-end and with each crash there was a lot of smoke. Every time this happened, the swim meet stopped because many of the Oliver parents who were timing were also were volunteer fire fighters and had to attend the crashes. The meet resumed once they found replacement timers. Despite the plane crashes, the club did very well and won the team trophy. I am not sure the same could be said about the coaches. We somehow managed to loose the team trophy somewhere between Oliver and Kelowna but that is another story. Doug Ritchie
As an interesting sidelight I was a pilot in W.W. 2 and was on my way to England in October, 1941 by sea. We were in a large convoy of ships and I was on a ship called the S.S. Rangitata registered in New Zealand with a New Zealand crew. To keep us busy we were assigned various jobs and mine was to walk the decks at night to make sure we had complete black out?. One night the First Mate was also on duty and he spotted me wearing a sweater with an Ogopogo Swim Club logo on it. It turned out that he was born in Winfield and had later moved to New Zealand. I later learned that night that Navy Officers drink straight gin (not rum). Alan France
Many current Kelowna community members were members of the Ogopogo Summer Swim Club in years gone by. We invite any previous members to contact us with any changes or additions of memories of their Ogopogo years.