A friendly meeting for coffee has resulted in the renewing of a near century-old rivalry between a pair of local swim clubs.
This weekend, for the first time in more than 40 years, members of the White Rock Amateur Swimming Association (WRASA) and the Crescent Beach Swimming Club will dip their toes into the water to battle for the Semiahmoo Cup, a competition that was an annual event post-First World War – it was first staged in 1922 – but has not been held for decades.
“I was out for a cup of coffee with (Crescent Beach Swim Club president) Bob Armstrong, and I just mentioned it, and we both wondered what ever happened to the race,” said WRASA communications director Bill Bishop.
“Both our clubs are nearing 100-year anniversaries, so we thought we could (revive) the tradition.”
The Crescent Beach club was formed in 1918, and WRASA has been around since 1919.
The race is set for Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the foot of Sullivan Street in Crescent Beach.
Like the original relay race in 1922, this years’ race will begin in the ocean, with swimmers completing a swim from the starting point to the Crescent Beach pier.
From there, a foot race will take competitors from the pier to Blackie Spit, and the final part of the relay will be staged in the Crescent Beach Swimming Club’s outdoor pool at the end of McBride Ave.
In the pool, swimmers will compete a set of 25-m sprints.
And while the spirit – and part of the route – is the same as its predecessor, the new race has been altered to be more inclusive.
The original race was between the fastest four male swimmers at each club, whereas Saturday’s event will include swimmers of all ages and genders.
“We freshened up the format to include all swimmers… in a much larger race,” Armstrong said.
After first pitching the idea, Bishop said he and Armstrong went about trying to find out why the annual competition had gone out with the tide, even checking with the Surrey Museum, but to no avail.
Not only that, but the original Semiahmoo Cup had long since vanished, which led to a new one being commissioned for this year.
“It was really hard to find anything conclusive,” Bishop said.
And though the Semiahmoo Cup has historical signficance, Bishop said the renewal of the race has less to do with history and more to do with it being a good opportunity to host a community event and foster a friendly rivalry between two neighbouring clubs.
“The two teams know each other really well. The kids see each other at swim meets every weekend,” he said.
Despite being president of WRASA, Bishop admits to having toes on both sides of the border in the Boundary Bay showdown. He grew up in Crescent Beach, and was a longtime member the the swim club as a youngster.
“I’m kind of torn between the two,” he said.
Registration for Saturday’s race begins at 8 a.m., with swimmers hitting the water at 8:30 a.m. The race is expected to last about two hours.
The public – as well as former members of both clubs – are encouraged to come out and watch.