PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles native aims to be the 14th known person to have swum across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Rob DeCou, an ultra-endurance athlete now living in Los Angeles, plans to swim more than 18 miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Saturday, starting at the Dungeness Spit and ending at Ogden Point in Victoria.
DeCou primarily participates in ultra-endurance events on land, he said, but has been training for the past year and a half to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“I wanted to see if I could do something outside my skill area,” he said.
The 37-year-old athlete graduated from Port Angeles High School in 2000.
He taught business and entrepreneur classes through Peninsula College at the Clallam Bay Correction Center from 2012 to 2014.
DeCou, an executive producer working with video and animation, said he did most of his training at his local YMCA’s swimming pool and at a beach in Los Angeles, but he also has prepared for the cold water of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Earlier this year he swam in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, where temperatures were at about 56 degrees, he said.
On Wednesday the temperature in the Strait of Juan de Fuca was 53 degrees. DeCou, who will wear a wet suit, said he hopes it warms to 54 degrees by the weekend.
“I grew up in Port Angeles, so I’m used to it,” he said.
If he is successful he will be the 14th known person to have swum across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Nine people have swum across the Strait without a wet suit, eight of whom are recognized by Northwest Open Water Swimming Association.
Those who have made the crossing without wet suits are Bert Thomas, Cliff Lumsdon, Amy Hiland, Ben Laughren, Marilyn Bell, Vicki Keith, Andrew Malinak, Susan Simmons and Melissa Blaustein.
Paul Webber, Orlando Boleda, Ken Goodman and Jill Yoneda have completed the swim with wet suits.
DeCou said he intends to get into a boat at 4:45 a.m. at Ediz Hook, shuttle to the Dungeness Spit and begin his swim by 5:30 a.m.
There are shorter stretches he could have attempted, but he is choosing to swim the 18.3 miles to Ogden Point.
“If you’re going to do all that training and get to the point where you can do a piece of it, you can do the whole thing,” he said. “If I did the shorter stretch, I’d still want to do the longest.”
DeCou said his wet suit won’t be the only thing providing some warmth during the chilly swim.
“I’m a larger guy,” he said. “I put on an extra 20 pounds getting ready — an extra layer of insulation.”
As an ultra-endurance athlete, DeCou said has dedicated his racing efforts to making a positive impact on the world. In 2016, DeCou partnered with 3000 Miles to a Cure and became the 310th solo finisher of Race Across America, raising $21,595 toward finding a cure for brain cancer.
In 2017, DeCou joined forces with End Polio Now in collaboration with Rotary District Governor Cozette Vergari to become the 124th known person to complete what is known as the “World’s Toughest Foot Race” — 146 miles on foot from the lowest point in the contiguous U.S. in Death Valley to the highest point at the summit of Mount Whitney. DeCou’s efforts raised nearly $700,000 to help end polio, he said.
Now, DeCou is raising funds for human trafficking prevention through Rotary. He is a member of the Playa Venice Rotary Club, according to his website. It’s part of a two-year campaign, he said.
“Rotary is a community of volunteers who can enhance what you’re doing, allowing you to create a wider, deeper impact than you otherwise could,” DeCou, he said.
DeCou said that though he loves living in a city, he is excited to return to his hometown for the swim.
“I appreciate the people and having my childhood in Port Angeles. It’s always nostalgic going home,” he said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].