David Gladish: Why you should swim in Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

David Gladish and Kristine Kleedehn swimming in Puget SoundPhoto by Sarah Kleedehn

By David Gladish

It’s so cold! I can’t do it! No more!

Those were the words out of my mouth the first time I went swimming in the Puget Sound. Now, at least once every month of the year, my wife and I can’t wait to swim in the Puget Sound. So, what changed?

When I jumped into the often-frigid waters of the salty Salish Sea for the first time, I was completely underprepared. I had on a pair of swim trunks and that was it. My polar plunge lasted about five seconds before I raced back to the comforts of a heated truck and a steaming mug of coffee.

Wet suit, goggles, swim buoy
Kristine Kleedehn is ready for a cold water swim
Photo by Sarah Kleedehn
Swimming in cold water year-round takes preparation and the right gear. For starters you need a thick wetsuit. A wetsuit’s warmth is measured in how many millimeters thick it is throughout different areas of the body. 

My wife and I wear 5/4 mm thick wetsuits, meaning it is 5 mm thick in the torso where you need extra warmth and 4 mm thick in the extremities, for more range of motion. Our wetsuits have built in hoods and we wear foot booties and gloves on top of that. 

Despite the cumbersome wetsuits causing us to feel like the Michelin Man, in the dead of winter our uncovered faces still manage to feel cold!

In addition to staying properly warm, having a good pair of swimming goggles is essential. We also have a swim buoy as an emergency floatie and to make ourselves visible for kayakers, stand up paddleboarders and the occasional boater that ventures close to shore.

Our favorite place to swim is the Richmond Beach Saltwater Park. We start out from a rocky point that juts out from the picnic shelter near the beach and swim thirty minutes north to a seawall, then retrace our strokes back to where we’ve left our towels and sandals. 

Sunset at RB Saltwater Park
Photo by Sarah Kleedehn
Every time we venture out, we find it hard to believe how lucky we are to have such a spectacular setting so close to home. It’s hard to find a more beautiful setting than this, with views of the Olympic Mountains and the surrounding rugged coastline.

Sometimes after a long day of work, often battling traffic and feeling exhausted, the last thing we want to do is go to the effort of pealing a thick wetsuit on, drive ten minutes from our house to the beach and jump into the cold water. 

However, post swim, the changes in our demeanor and the cleansing feeling of saltwater and fresh air are entirely worth the effort. We are immediately relaxed, rejuvenated, revived. 

It feels like we have found a hidden gem, so close to the hustle and bustle of busy city life. 

We can’t believe there are not more people swimming out there. Come join us!


victor,  August 20, 2019 at 1:07 PM  

with proper preparation, wetsuits may not be necessary

i've also read an interview with a native indian - according to her, before the white man came to these shores, they regularly swam in the sound - as part of her coming of age, the whole village would paddle her out into the sound to the singing of songs. at a certain point, she would drop her clothes and swim back to shore - alone. the tribe would light a fire to help her find her way back...

i've also read a book about the famous indian - Geronomo. in it, it was pointed out that he had the young men acclimate to weather - even in the coldest winters, they'd get in the rivers until turning blue, then come out to warm up, then back in the river...

i've often wondered what our bodies could actually accomplish if we weren't brought up to be dependent on the latest inventions...

Unknown August 22, 2019 at 9:06 AM  

well written and intriguing! If I were younger, there would be a real temptation to take an icy plunge somewhere.

Unknown August 22, 2019 at 11:29 AM  

Thanks for the great information. I couldn’t imagine how someone could swim in such cold water.

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