The Tickle Swim
A 5k swim to raise funds and awareness for mental health issues.


To register contact CMHA-NL. The deadline to register is the 15th of July, and July 31st for the Mini-Tickle. For safety reasons we allow a maximum 25 swimmers, with the remainder placed on a wait list. Registration also requires signing and returning a liability release as well as setting up a personal pledge page. We strongly recommend a fundraising goal of $1000 for each participant. Register on-line here.

There will be a pre-swim meeting before the swim day. Registration will add you to a mailing list and you will receive updates. This meeting serves to answer questions, discuss logistics, and also as fun meet-n-greet.

Swim day

Tickle Swim

The swim will take place August 10th at 7am but is highly dependent on the sea and weather conditions. The decision to swim or not will be made the previous evening, and if necessary the swim will be postponed to August 11th. The direction of the swim (to or from Bell Island) will also be made with preference given to leaving from Bell Island. Participants will be contacted via email or text message.

The course of the swim is just North of the ferry terminals in both Bell Island and Portugal Cove St. Phillips.

Little-Tickle Swim

New in 2019 - A Mini-Tickle swim for juniors and new ocean swimmers!
Date: Saturday Aug 24 10:00am. Location: Topsail Beach CBS.
The mini-tickle swim is a 1km swim along the beach (500m back and forth). You don't need your own Kayaker. A safety crew, kayakers and encouragers will be on hand. It's a great way to get a start in ocean swimming!
Please review the swimmers information below, and register by contacting

Geographic Coordinates

Bell Island

Latitude: 47° 37' 50.045" N

Longitude: 52° 55' 15.221" W

Portugal Cove St Phillip's

Latitude: 47° 37' 39.985"

Longitude: 52 ° 55' 15.221" W


There are no specific training guidelines as participants will vary greatly in age, experience, and ability. At just under 5km, The Tickle Swim is not an extreme distance, but it is not one to be taken lightly. Participants should be aware that a 5km swim is the rough equivalent of running a half marathon (21km). The local Tely 10 road race is only ~16km. Further, as this is an ocean swim, swell can be significant and makes the swim much harder than it would be in a pool or lake. The running equivalent is likely closer to the hilly local Cape to Cabot race (20km).

Therefore, it is essential that before attempting The Tickle Swim, you swim on a regular basis and have completed other long open water swims. You can walk the Tely Ten or Cape to Cabot but you really can't do that in a swim.

Remember that the pool is not the lake, and the lake is not the ocean. Swimmers may want to consider training with a masters swim group (Rocky Island Swim Club) or participating in The Open Water Swim Series to test their fitness.

Weather and ocean conditions

Weather and ocean conditions can vary. In the first year, it was fairly smooth, in the second year, there was a significant swell from the north as you can see in the video below. For this reason, if you are used to breathing only on one side, it is a good idea to do some practice breathing on both sides so that you can adapt to the varying conditions of the swim.

The water at this time of year is cool (13-17°) but not cold. The English Channel is a similar temperature and swimmers cross it without wetsuits. We strongly recommend wearing at least a thin wetsuit unless you have acclimatized yourself to cold water temperatures.

Currents and tides in Conception Bay are generally weak. Of far greater importance for the swim will be the direction and strength of the winds. Of course, if wind and tide are in opposition, this can make the water choppy.

During the swim, the main form of sea life you will encounter is jellyfish. Jellyfish can sometimes be found in dense aggregations but are often found singly or in small groups. Swimmers have reported swimming through dense aggregations without being stung. Other jellyfish such as lion's mane have a stronger sting but are not common.

Swimmers should be cautious. In 2014 a sunfish was spotted. While very large, these are not considered dangerous. Obviously, ocean wildlife should be treated respectfully and not disturbed. Large sharks such as Great Whites are infrequent as well as Orcas.

Note that sea sickness can become an issue while swimming. At the very least, be prepared to deal with a strong taste of salt water in your mouth.

Swim kit

A proper kit is recommended for a successful swim. We strongly urge all participants to obtain:

  • A triathlon type wetsuit. Other wetsuits such as those for diving or wind surfing can be too cumbersome for a successful crossing
  • A swim cap, although two is preferable for warmth.
  • Swim goggles (be sure that you have tested them in a variety of conditions and they are not prone to fogging)
  • Consider neoprene gloves and socks
  • Water bottle(s) to be carried by your kayaker (mandatory)
  • Body glide or wetsuit lubricant to prevent chafing
  • A towel and a change of clothes for variable weather conditions after the swim

Note: Your kit will be transported from the start of the swim to the finish by support volunteers in time for your arrival.

Kayak and safety support

It is ESSENTIAL that all support paddlers have a minimum of Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayaking Skills. If a support paddler does not have this requirement there are courses available through July leading up to the swim.

Proper equipment is also essential, this is a check list of Department of Transportation required equipment that Kayakers participating in the Tickle Swim MUST have in/on their boats.

Level 1 kayak courses are offered by Paddle NL and The NL Kayak Company.

Department of Transportation Requirements:

  • Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
  • A Buoyant Heaving Line at least 15 metres long (floating throw-line or throw-bag)
  • A Manual Water Pump or Bailing Device
  • A Sound Signalling Device (Whistle)

Additionally, here is a list of equipment the Tickle Swim requires kayakers to have the day of the swim.

Safety Kayaker Equipment List:

  • Kayak minimum of 14 feet in length
  • Kayak with bulkheads OR internal float bags (floatation compartments)
  • Kayak must have deck lines (bow and stern)
  • Kayak needs to have the ability to maintain a straight line in the wind (Rudder or Skeg)
  • Spray Deck
  • Ability to transport swimmers personal belongings (watertight hatch)
  • Paddler must be wearing thermal protective clothing suitable to the water and air temperatures (wetsuit or dry-suit)

NOTE: If a support kayaker does not have the appropriate equipment or skill level the day of the swim they will be unable to participate.

In addition to kayak support, CMHA-NL will ensure several motorized boats will be on the water to provide assistance if required.

Swim marshal

A Swim Marshal will be designated before the swim day. It is expected that all participants obey the directions of the marshal for their own safety. This includes terminating the swim for the group or an individual swimmer for health or safety reasons, or if the swimmer cannot complete the swim in a reasonable time frame. Remember that a number of people are volunteering their time to organize this event and keep it safe and successful.


Immediately following the swim, water, coffee, tea, and other refreshments are provided at a reception with local media, officials and past participants.