Solo Swims of Ontario Inc.

Hall of Fame


Left: The start on the beach at Port Sanilac.
Bottom Right: The crowds at the finish were enormous.
Others: A team of pacers and a series of personally chosen images and messages kept John motivated.

John Bulsza was born in Val d'Or, Quebec in 1950. When he was three, his family moved to Sarnia, Ontario. As a teenager, he obtained the Bronze Cross award of the Royal Life Saving Society and acted as a lifeguard on the shore of Lake Huron. During those hot summer days as a lifeguard, he would dream of swimming across the lake to Michigan - a mere distance of 2 miles; however, he never did complete that swim. He did, however, compete in a number of swims across the St. Clair river.

When he got to the University of Western Ontario (UWO) to major in Geography, his swimming talents were soon recognized and he swam on the varsity swim team for 17 months. He soon found his focus in teaching and registered at Elborn College (UWO) to specialize on teaching students up to Grade 10. Subsequently, he taught for ten years in the Elementary School system while studying theology. So, in 1985, his teaching focussed on his love of Religious Instruction at the High School level. From that time he has continued to study Theology and has developed strong Christian religious beliefs which he seeks to pass on to his students.

While John works within the Catholic School system, his strong beliefs in Pro-Life and the Right-to-Life movement have brought him into conflict with his own colleagues and with a number of parents and students; however, his beliefs have stood all challenges.

So John's dream of a Lake Huron swim was formed over more than a quarter of a century and was supported by his strong religious beliefs. And so it was that, at age 46, he crossed Lake Huron (from Port Sanilac, Michigan to Port Franks, Ontario) on 31 August and 1 September 1996 in 26 hours 49 minutes.

In true form for John, his swim raised around $11,000 for a number of charities related to his religious activities in the community:

John's swim, as with many others, involved many hours of frustration in gathering together a team for his swim; however, the owner of one of his potential lead boats who had to back-out (because of personal commitments) supported John's charitable goals so strongly that he donated $1,000 to these charities.

On an amusing note, John still expects to collect a further $5 in support of these charities. During his years as a lifeguard on the Lake Huron waterfront and dreaming of a two-mile crossing of the lake, he had a girlfriend who bet him $5 that by the age of 45 he would be out-of-shape and fat. So at age 46 he crossed the Lake at a point where it is 35 miles (56 km) wide!

John is an avid reader of spiritual books and books on sailing. Yes, John has another dream that he harbours - a desire to sail a boat across the Atlantic - single handed. Oh!, and it's for real - when I spoke with him to check on details for this write-up in early January, he was working with a computer simulation of sailing . . .


A poem and associated notes, written after the swim by Bryan Finlay (one of the two SSO Swim Masters), attempts to summarize John's dreams and beliefs - and attempts to answer that ubiquitous question "What do you think about?"

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Created: 20th August 2000
Last Updated: 24th January 2015