Andrew Malinak finishes his swim around Bainbridge Island on Aug 8. Melissa Nordquist

Andrew Malinak finishes his swim around Bainbridge Island on Aug 8. Melissa Nordquist

Seattle swimmer to make second attempt to cross Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday after adverse conditions derailed 2013 try

PORT ANGELES — A Seattle man will make a second attempt to swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday.

Andrew Malinak, 28, a Seattle long-distance swimmer by hobby and civil engineer by profession, plans to leave Beechy Head west of Victoria in East Sooke Park at the southern tip of Vancouver Island at about 6:45 a.m.

He’ll be swimming without a wetsuit — only a swimsuit and goggles, and perhaps a little Vaseline to prevent chafing — in water temperature anticipated to be 50 to 52 degrees.

He expects the 12-mile crossing to the North Olympic Peninsula to take between five and six hours and hopes to step onto the sandy beach near the mouth of the Elwha River between noon and 1 p.m.

Malinak attempted to swim across the Strait in July 2013 but was undone by adverse currents, fog and cold water.

The swimmer left the water about a mile off Crescent Beach, having made no progress for over an hour as he fought the currents.

Coming out of the water, his ears were ringing and he “couldn’t see straight,” he said Friday.

He said he had trained for swimming in cold water, “but not that cold.”

He had expected a water temperature of about 52 degrees but faced 46-degree water instead.

Fog forced him to wait an hour to begin the 2013 attempt. As a result, the currents were not optimal and forced him off course.

His scheduled start time Sunday should provide him with minimal tides and currents, Malinak said.

Accompanying him Sunday will be Capt. Charles Martin of Livin the Dream, a 26-foot Sequim-based catamaran safety vessel that traveled with Malinak on his first attempt to swim the Strait.

Also supporting him will be swimmers Howie Ruddell of Port Angeles, Scott Lautman and Erika Norris of Seattle, and Melissa Nordquist of Gig Harbor.

Ruddell, owner of Ruddell Auto Mall in Port Angeles, is also an endurance swimmer who swam the length of Lake Crescent, almost 9 miles, in 2013.

He considers himself a novice among this experienced crew. He met Malinak three years ago on a swim near Alki in West Seattle.

“For me to be a part of a swim like this is a special opportunity,” Ruddell said. “It’ll be fun to be a part of this swim.”

Lautman is a six-time NCAA All-American swimmer in his 50s. He has swum the English Channel, around Manhattan Island and across the Strait of Gilbraltar.

Nordquist is an open water swimmer and architect living in Gig Harbor.

Norris is another endurance swimmer — a six-time NCAA Division III All-American and a graphic designer living in the Seattle area.

Each of his support crew members were expected to get into the water in turns with Malinak to keep him company over the deep waters of the Strait.

Nordquist and Norris, Malinak said, will probably “keep me fed” with the calories he needs to feed his muscles during the swim. All of them will look after him and ensure he is well.

Malinak will follow Marathon Swimmers Federation rules for unassisted swims, he said.

He can’t have contact with others during the swim, and his achievement must be documented by qualified observers.

He is allowed to receive food, which will probably be powdered nutrition in a water bottle every 20 minutes or so.

On Friday, he acknowledged that Sunday’s weather forecast was for rain.

No problem — he’ll already be wet in the water, he reasoned, and his support crew can put on rain jackets.

In the water, Malinak plans to swim a “relaxed freestyle” stroke.

The first few minutes are always difficult as he gets comfortable in the cold water, he said, but after he starts swimming, it is just like any other long-distance sport:

He gets into “the zone” and just keeps his arms and legs moving.

The swim will be the third leg of his “Summer of Bert,” feats inspired by legendary Tacoma swimmer Bert Thomas.

In 1956, Thomas was the first person in documented history to swim the Strait.

Earlier this summer, Malinak completed an 18.8-mile swim from Tacoma to Seattle in eight hours, 43 minutes.

On Aug. 8, he swam 25.5 miles around Bainbridge Island in 12 hours, 23 minutes.

If successful Sunday, Malinak will join the ranks of a number of swimmers who have mastered the Strait, including:

■ Bert Thomas — July 1955.

■ Cliff Lumsdon, Amy Hiland, Ben Laughren and Marilyn Bell — August 1956.

■ Vicki Keith — August 1989.

■ Fin Donnelly — August 1994.

■ Ken Goodman, Orlando Boleda and Paul Webber — September 2014.

Malinak had hoped to be the eighth person in 2013. If successful Sunday, he’ll be the 11th.

Weather permitting, Malinak is confident he’ll make it.

“I feel like I’m much more prepared than I was two years ago,” he said.

The swim will be live-tweeted by the crew at @andrewswims #SJDF2015 #SummerOfBert, and live GPS tracking will be available on vessel tracking websites such as or by searching MMSI (ship number) 367575160.


Reporter Mark Swanson can be reached at 360-417-3531 or [email protected]

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