Meet My Juan de Fuca Double Crossing Crew

I have always felt so fortunate to have some of the kindest and most knowledgeable people in the world on my crew. They freely give their time and expertise both before and during and after the swim. They are why I am able to do what I do. They keep me safe, fed and going.

I am thrilled to add several youth to my crew this year. Two will be on the boat and 20 have worked as part of my research team. I hope through their participation to encourage other youth to believe in themselves and turn what others believe impossible to reality. We all to often tell one another what we can’t do or what can’t be done. I believe we need to start saying “really, let me help you with that.”

Juan de Fuca Youth Crew Members

Miss. Valentina Sheridan, Swim Handler

Born in Mexico, Valentina is a new youth addition to the crew. She and Susan became friends through a common friend and they now spend time together exploring local restaurants and watching documentaries at the IMAX. Last year Valentina, who is 14 years of age, joined Susan on the deck at Crystal Pool to help coach Special Olympic Athletes. She hopes to return again this year.

Miss. Soleil Huber, Deck Hand/Feeder

Soleil is part of the youth addition to the crew. Representing love, light and laughter Soleil is one of Susan’s favourite people. She will be helping out on deck and helping feed Susan.

Mrs. Arnott’s Third Grade Class, Sangster Elementary School

Susan invited Mrs. Arnott’s 3rd grade class research the Juan de Fuca Strait to help her prepare for the swim. You can learn more about their findings on WithMs4MS.


Crew Members

Mr. Gordon Higgins, Captain/Primary Pilot/Primary Support Craft

Gordon has been sailing the waterways off Vancouver Island for over 30 years. As a teenager he crewed on family race boats through Strait of Juan De Fuca at least 20 times. He spent 15 years crewing on small (26 ft) and large (40 ft) sail race boats including 7 Swiftsure races and 3 Oregon Offshore races. He also delivered boats from Victoria to Astoria, Oregon on 5 different occasions.

Since retiring from racing, 15 years ago, Gordon has been cruising his 34 ft sailboat in San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound, Hornby Island, every summer on family trips. Gordon has his Canadian Yachting Basic Competency Certificate, Pleasure Craft Operator Card, Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime) and recently achieved his first aid level 1.

This is Gordon’s second swim escort. He piloted Susan’s crossing of the Strait last year. He will spend time on the water with her this year in advance in advance of the swim as he did last year.

As the captain he will be responsible for providing the swimmer and crew safe passage across the strait. He will be responsible for all radio and phone communication, Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) liaison, monitoring of nearby vessel traffic, and monitoring of weather conditions. He will decide if the swim is go or no go and will also chart the course. Gordon will be responsible for the overall safety of the swimmer and crew for the entire time on the water. He will make the final call in all safety decisions.

Mr. Matt Piechnik, Secondary Pilot/Secondary Support Craft

Matt has been crewing for Susan for 4 years. He has played the role of pilot as well as secondary safety on both Susan’s lake and ocean swims. Two years ago he played an instrumental role when stepping into the pilot’s position during some of the rougher waters in Great Bear. He was a key member of Susan’s Juan de Fuca crew last year.

As a life-long resident of Lake Cowichan he has been on boats most of his life and has been piloting motorized craft for over 20 years.  He comes to the swim with VOP, MED A3, ROC-M and Advanced Marine First Aid.

Ms. MJ VanBergen, Swim Manager/Observer

MJ has crewed on a number of Susan’s swims including her first ocean swim from West Vancouver to English Bay where Susan encountered a gray whale along the way. She also served as observer on a women’s relay across the Strait of Georgia and was chief safety for all of Susan’s Cowichan Lake swims (35km, 70km and 2 attempts at 105km), as well as chief safety and lead observer for her 3 Great Bear Swims and last year’s Juan de Fuca crossing.

MJ has her Justice Institute Emergency Management Certificate, Level 2 First Aid, Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime), Power Squadron Basic Boating Certificate and Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

MJ will assist the Captain in overseeing the safety of the swimmer. She is the person most familiar with the sport of Open Water Swimming. Under the direction of the Captain she will provide backup radio and phone communication, backup pilot, monitoring of nearby vessel traffic, and monitoring of weather conditions.

As Official Observer she will also be responsible for ensuring that the swim is conducted safely and in adherence to the specified rules, in accordance with the swim rules. The Official Observer, along with the Captain has the authority to end the swim due to a technical violation.

Ms. Claire Skillen, Secondary Observer/Swim Handler

Claire is a force in the Victoria paddling community.  She is a proficient kayaker, outrigger and voyage canoeist, and dragon boater. She has served as stern on a number of teams and has coached both outrigger and dragon boating.

Claire has been crewing on Susan’s swims for 4 years. She was the lead paddler for the Cowichan Lake swims providing training and support to other crew members. She has been by Susan’s side during some of her most difficult times in the water including vomiting and periods of extreme fatigue. Two years ago she played a critical role in keeping Susan both awake and safe on an overnight swim. Last year she was beside her from start to finish as she crossed Juan de Fuca.

Claire is very familiar with Susan’s normal mental state as well as her as how far she is willing to be and can be pushed in the water. She has provided Susan support when she was mildly hypothermic during a 70km swim and is familiar with some of the other medical conditions that may occur during a long swim.

Mr. Raymond Este, Kayaker/ Swim Handler

Ray is a well-known personality in the open water community in Victoria, particularly Thetis Lake where he paddles for Susan as she swims laps around the lake throughout the summer. He has been paddling for her since she began open water swimming eight years ago and has crewed on all of her swims.

Ray took up kayaking about 20 years ago spending his summers exploring the gulf islands. Soon after moving to Victoria he discovered Outrigger Canoeing and became a member of Ocean River Paddle Club where he paddles Victoria’s inner harbour and surrounding waters on a regular basis.

As Susan’s handler he will be instrumental in determining her health and well-being throughout the swim. He is most familiar with her normal mental state and is able to determine if the swim needs to end due to hypothermia or other medical issues.

Ms. Pam Loadman, Kayaker/Swim Handler

Pam has a long history in British Columbia’s waterways. She is a swimmer, kayaker and sailor and spent time many of the province’s coastal waters including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strat of Georgia and Queen Charlotte Strait.  She is an experienced kayaker; comfortable in a number of different conditions.

Pam has been crewing on Susan’s swims for 4 years. She was a paddler/swimmer the first year she swam Cowichan Lake and provided paddling support on last year’s Juan de Fuca crossing. She also swims with Susan as part of the Tyee Aquatics Swim Club and knows both her swim style and mindset.

As a physiotherapist Pam is aware of the challenges Susan faces both on water and land. She will be able to provide unique insights throughout the swim.

Ms. Melissa Anderson, Kayaker/Swim Handler

Melissa is a trained lifeguard and occupational therapist. She has worked with people with disabilities for a number of years, including people with Multiple Sclerosis. She is the most familiar with how Susan works through the challenges that may come her way.

Melissa has been crewing on Susan’s swims alongside Claire for 4 years. She was a lifeguard for the Cowichan Lake swims providing support to Susan and some of the other swimmers. She has been by Susan’s side during some of her most difficult times in the water including vomiting and periods of extreme fatigue. Two year’s ago while crewing with Claire overnight she played a critical role in keeping Susan both awake and safe during her swim. She was also a member of her Juan de Fuca Strait crew last year.

Melissa is also very familiar with the Susan’s normal mental state as well as her as how far she is willing to be and can be pushed in the water. She has provided Susan support when she was mildly hypothermic during a 70km swim and is familiar with some of the other medical conditions that may occur during a long swim.

Corey Teramura, Kayaker/ Swim Handler

As a paddler Corey started competitive dragon boat/outrigger in Vancouver. He added marathon / white water, sprint and slalom disciplines to his paddle portfolio when he moved to Calgary to be a coach and guide and later coached slalom canoe and kayak and Japan . Corey’s next stop was Victoria where he  became a sea kayak guide and coach, coordinating paddling events and training camps locally and internationally. He feels blessed to have paddled in many parts of the world.

Corey is deeply connected to the ocean with many of his friendships forged on the water. He recently participated in the Great Bear Swim as a paddler for Susan and revisit some of the remote locations he once worked.

Mr. Fritz Schreiner, Deck Hand, Light Operator

Fritz has been on the water most of his life. Originally from Montego Bay, Jamaica Frtiz now calls Victoria home. He has spent time as a coach to the Victoria Youth Paddling Club and recently escorted the team to Kona, Hawaii where they participated in the Queen Lili’uokalani Outrigger Race. He currently teaches sailing at the Victoria Yatch Club and befriended Susan while in Hawaii.


Mr. Rob DeLange, Videographer

Rob is a long-time friend of Susan’s with many incredible. Professionally he is a technologist for the Province of British Columbia but this is the least of his talents. He is also a base guitarist and fabulous photographer. His pride and joy are his two daughters. He will be exploring a new passion this year through the swim – video.


Ms. Charla Huber, Storyteller/Social Media

Charla is a long-time friend of Susan’s. They originally met when Susan did her very first swim around Thetis Lake – Charla was the reporter for the local paper. They immediately connected and have remained in touch since. Charla currently works in communications and excels in storytelling. But more importantly, she is mom to Soleil, her sensational young daughter.

Paul Bucci, Media Relations

Paul Bucci has a life-long connection to the water, whether it be sailing, boating, dragon boating, canoeing or outrigger paddling. From covering civil wars in Bosnia and Somalia, to adventure sport writing, investigative, crime, political and business reporting, Paul has worked in senior positions for three of Canada’s largest media companies, and now focuses his professional efforts on sales, marketing and editorial strategy for the largest group of community newspapers on the West Coast. He is married to Fiona Anderson, and paddles with Latitude 48, a Victoria-based outrigger canoe club.


Fiona Anderson, Night Deck Hand

From crewing on large sailing yachts in the British Virgin Islands to piloting a 70-foot fish-buying ship in Alaska, boats have been part of Fiona Anderson’s life since spending summers as a child on the waters of Northern Ontario’s vast Red Lake. A former editor-in-chief of the Business in Vancouver Media Group who has practised native-rights, tax and securities law, Fiona is currently an employment lawyer in Victoria and owner of Triumph Social Media Marketing. An avid cyclist with extensive solo trips through China and Vietnam, Fiona is also a rower with the Victoria City Rowing Club and paddles with Latitude 48.

Triumph Social Media

Triumph Social Media Marketing is a 360-degree marketing, advertising and communications firm with extensive contacts in North American media, harnessing the power of social and conventional digital media.

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