Big chill sinks swimmer’s try for world record in Hood Canal

QUILCENE — After 10 hours and 17 miles, paraplegic Jason Pipoly cut short his planned 40-mile Hood Canal swim late Saturday.

With just the strength in his arms and a lot of determination, Pipoly, 38, of San Antonio, Texas, set off to create a world record as the first paraplegic to swim 40 miles.

He started at 7 a.m. Saturday at Herb Beck Marina on Quilcene Bay to Alderbrook Resort in Union.

But, the cold was too much for him, said Debi Pfitzenmaier, who was tracking his progress, and sending e-mails.

At 8:40 p.m., she wrote: “Just spoke with Jason. His endurance was up, and he said he would have kept swimming, but the water temperature dropped to a risky 55 degrees.

“After 10 hours and 17 miles, Jason was forced to give in to the elements.

“He sounded strong, but said he was looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Pipoly, who is paralyzed from the waist down, had expected to arrive in Union at about 7 a.m. today, said Hans Rosenwinkel, a film-maker, who was speaking Saturday from a boat that paced Pipoly in the canal.

The swim from Quilcene Bay Marina to Alderbrook Resort Marina in Union would have set the world record for the longest swim by a paraplegic, Rosenwinkel said.

If he had made it, it wouldn’t have been his first record.

In 2002, he became the first U.S. paraplegic to cross the 22-mile English Channel, swimming it in 13 hours and 48 minutes.

In 2003, he was the first paraplegic to swim the 21 miles from Los Angeles Harbor to Catalina Island.

His first try at a world record was at the age of 11 — when he still had the use of his legs — when he came within five miles of swimming the English Channel in 1982.

He was the youngest American to make the attempt.

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