‘Swim Defiance’ this August in annual jaunt

Up to 100 swimmers, including from Vashon, will cross from the island to Tacoma.

On Sunday, August 11, up to 100 intrepid individuals will show up at Owens Beach west of Point Defiance, don their swimming gear and march over to the ferry for the trip to Tahlequah.

But they won’t be taking the ferry back.

Instead, from the south shores of Vashon Island, those swimmers will swim back across Dalco Passage and to a celebration at the finish area on the Tacoma side. Swimmers are instructed to swim to a point a bit east of the Point Defiance ferry dock to compensate for the generally westerly flow through this channel. Anyone heading too far towards Gig Harbor will be rescued.

About a dozen of the entrants will be from our own Vashon open-water swimming community.

The first recorded competitive swim along the course route was in 1926. Nearly a century later, this year’s race is being organized by the Bernardo’s All Star Masters Swim Team, headquartered in Tacoma. Bernardo’s took over the event last year from Blue Wave Aquatics in Federal Way, which had hosted for the previous few years.

This race is one of three major events in the summer open water swimming calendar.

The earliest was the Whidbey Adventure Swim, held on June 1. The next, called the Fat Salmon, will be held July 27 in Lake Washington (between the I-90 and 520 bridges generally; wind and bacteria permitting).

The starting time for the “Swim Defiance” race is set so that swimmers can have a slack tide — you might have looked down from the Chetzemoka ferry and said: “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near those whirlpools.” Slack tide minimizes that risk.

Race director Diana Hermason, herself a multi-decade open water swim competitor, is eager to grow the race as it approaches its Centennial in 2026.

“Race proceeds are used to support our Masters Swimming Program by providing extensive training for our courses, and we bring swimmers to Vashon for training sessions year-round,” Hermason said.

Although this is a race for experienced swimmers, anyone interested in the spectacle of 100 swimmers hitting the water should make their way to the beach next to the Tahlequah dock at about 9:45 a.m. on August 11. Interested sponsors should contact Diana Hermason at 253-426-0588.

Pat Call is a masters rower and erstwhile sportswriter.