Marathoner Bob Weir swims his way to new peaks

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, 1993. Bob, 50, is the first person to swim the entire lake.
Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, 1993. Bob, 50, is the first person to swim the entire lake.

When someone tells you they climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro just for “something to do,” you know you’re not dealing with your New Year’s resolution “athlete.”

Bob Weir, in fact, is nowhere near your average athlete. Weir has climbed mountains, paddled rivers, run roads, and swum lakes. LOTS of lakes.

He was born in Winnipeg and at a young age was taught to swim by his champion diver dad. At the family cottage on Lake Winnipeg, Weir spent hours in the water and, at age 9, joined a swim team. By age 10, Weir was winning golds in every stroke in every race provincially, and continued his winning ways through his teen years and into university.

Weir’s interest in distance swimming was first piqued when, at the age of 11, he witnessed Kathie McIntosh swim across Lake Winnipeg. In 1962, at 19, he successfully took on the 29 km himself. With one lake under his belt, Weir had officially caught the distance-swimming bug and the following year became the first person ever to swim across the 55-km Lake Manitoba.

With a university degree in hand, Weir spent the summer of 1964 on the professional circuit and raced in four lakes in Quebec.

But the road called and Weir set off across the pond (he didn’t swim this one!) and hitchhiked in Europe. He eventually landed in London with Wood Gundy, and then his job ultimately brought him back to Canada and to Leaside in 1971. Weir purchased a home on Cameron Crescent and has lived there ever since.

Soon after his return, he joined the Masters Swim Club of Ontario and raced in meets across North America.

But the lure of the distance swim called and in 1989, Weir became the 23rd person to cross the 52 km of Lake Ontario. Suffering a serious shoulder injury during the swim, Weir did what anyone would do the following year while waiting to recover. He ran a marathon. As his wife Joyce Curry says, “he’s stubborn.” Weir counters with, “I’m determined.”

The shoulder injury kept Weir out of distance swimming but not entirely out of the water as he continued with modified training. With his dogged determination, only one year after the marathon, Weir conquered 57 km in a swim of Lake Couchiching-Lake Simcoe. It was during this swim he displayed his incredible athleticism combined with unbelievable tenacity. After completing 32 km of the swim, Weir was forced out of the water by an electrical storm. But as he says, “you get at it and you try again.” Incredibly, he got back into the water the very next day and starting from the very beginning, went on to swim the entire distance. This swim was followed the following year with a 44 km swim of Lake Erie, and in 1993, at the age of 50, Weir became the first person to swim the 35 km of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

As if marathon swimming weren’t enough, Weir climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1995, and in 2001, canoed the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories with his wife.

He has also given back to the swimming community, serving as president of Masters Swimming Ontario, officiating at meets, serving as the president of Solo Swims of Ontario, and working as a swim master for such swimmers as Paula Stephanson, who was only the second person in the world to swim all five Great Lakes.

Weir’s drive to succeed, his grit, and his incredible successes are truly the definition of “the sky’s the limit.” He’s a lifelong man on a mission who has travelled the world in the water, on foot, and in boats to reach the highest peaks of athletic success.

About Susan Scandiffio 35 Articles
Susan Scandiffio was born in Scotland and raised in Toronto. While she holds a master’s degree in history, her main passion (besides her wonderful family) is sports. Susan can often be found at the A.C.C. or in a Leaside arena or playing field, scoping out stories for Leaside Life.