The First Fun Fitness Swim


After arriving in Whistler in August 1974 on a year’s leave from teaching that became multiple seasons, BJ Godson filled various roles in the growing community, from bartender at establishments such as the Highland Lodge to the creator of the Ski Friends program on Whistler Mountain. During her time in Whistler, she also founded Whistler’s annual Fun Fitness Swim.

According to BJ’s mother, she began to swim at the age of one, even before she started walking. She continued to swim and, in 1979, her boyfriend at the time suggested that she organize a swim in the area because she was “such a good swimmer” and “loved to organize things.” This led to the first Fun Fitness Swim, a fun distance race of about a mile and a half (about 2.4 km) in Alta Lake on August 19, 1979.

A smilig BJ Godson presents a swimming prize to Sheila Peters while Denver Snider looks on. Whistler Question, 1979.

BJ’s time working at the Highland Lodge had introduced her to Roy Adams, a representative of Molson’s, and he agreed to have the company sponsor the event. Thanks to this sponsorship, every participant in the race was guaranteed a t-shirt and drinks, and bananas and chocolate were available to those who needed it during the swim. Local resident Chico made trophies for the first place winners and local businesses donated prizes for a draw.

Rather than focusing on the competition of a race, this event was described by the Whistler Question as “a community event to encourage fitness” and was open to everyone over the age of 19. Thirty-seven swimmers left Wayside Park in one minute intervals, led by BJ and heading for the docks at Adventures West. Volunteers in rowboats and canoes were recruited to help any struggling swimmers and spectators were encouraged to come cheer. The race was followed by an afterparty at the Christiana Inn with refreshments provided by Molson’s and members of the Alta Lake Community Club. The first two winners were Rick McFadden at 41:25 and Meg Fellowes at 44:00, both of whom were reportedly so cold after the race that they didn’t make it to the afterparty.

Participants for one of the early Fun Fitness Swims. Photo courtesy of BJ Godson.

The first Fun Fitness Swim was such a success that the second year went ahead with almost full registration even though the weather was wet, cold and windy. The course changed a few times over the first years until the Fun Fitness Swim moved to Lost Lake in the mid-1980s. According to BJ, one of the main reasons for moving to Lost Lake was the danger of windsurfers on Alta Lake.

Though the windsurfing club and local windsurfers were asked to stay out of the swim course for a couple of hours during the race, there was little they or organizers could do about visiting windsurfers or those who didn’t get the notice. One swimmer in the 1982 event even recalled colliding with a windsurfer. The Question reported his comments, saying “I hit one. He was a beginner. He fell and couldn’t get out of the way. I didn’t see him and – bang – I ran into him.”

Swimmer Shelley Warne heads from Wayside Park to the Alta Lake Inn and back under the watchful eye of Marilyn Moore, who dusted off her bathtub derby craft for the occasion. Whistler Question Collection, 1984.

Though the event continued to focus on encouraging participation rather than competition, swimmers still swam to the best of their abilities and BJ remembered one participant in particular demonstrating their athletic ability. According to BJ, she was swimming around Lost Lake when “all of a sudden, there’s somebody passing me a high clip, swimming so fast they made a little wake.” She soon realized that she had been passed by Dawn Titus, which was particularly annoying as Dawn had had a cast on her leg until just a couple of weeks before the swim.

The Fun Fitness Swim continued to take place at Lost Lake without windsurfers and under BJ’s leadership, with help from other organizations, until 1989, when her friend Cindy took over the organization. Molson’s continued to sponsor the event until the last Fun Fitness Swim was held in the early 1990s.

3 thoughts on “The First Fun Fitness Swim”

  1. Great story! I wish I had lived at Whistler in those days to participate. I remember my first “long-distance” swim, from Worlebury Lodge to Dr. Clarke’s cabin (next to Barnfield’s), with my mother accompanying in the row boat. I was 11, and the distance seemed daunting! Since then, open-water swimming has become a passion of mine; last year when I was visiting, I swam a circle, pretty much encompassing the whole of Alta Lake. My overall impression was that lake has greatly shrunk since I was a child! Open-water swimming, including in cold, winter water, has grown rapidly as a sport, especially during Covid. It would be wonderful if someone were willing to resurrect this race. I, for one, would travel to participate.

  2. BJ continues to swim, now in the warm ocean bays of Gabriola Island. I often go with her, but I don’t swim as long as she does. I did make it out to Turtle Rock from the Taylor Bay beach and back last week, with her, about a 50 minute swim, which was huge for me, haha. Good times. From Renée Titterton, August 24, 2023.

Leave a Reply