The Fat Salmon Swim has been making a splash in Lake Washington for the past two decades, and there will be a few additions for this year’s 20th anniversary celebration on July 13.

The Orca Swim Team, a nonprofit affiliate of U.S. Masters Swimming, took over organizing the event in 2015. Registration fees help cover permitting and other event costs, with any remaining proceeds used by the swim team to rent pool time. The group primarily trains at Seattle University.

Every year more than 300 swimmers come out for the event, making the long 3.2-mile migration from Day Street Park to Madison Park Beach.

“It’s one of the longest USMS swim races offered in our area,” said Fat Salmon Swim race director Jim Lasersohn. “This used to be a 3.2-mile and a 1.25-mile race, and you had the option to do both.”

There were always enough participants signing up for the longer race, Lasersohn said, so the Fat Salmon Swim eventually dropped the shorter option.

“We only recommend this race for people who have some open-water swimming experience,” he said. “If somebody’s never done a race two miles or more, this is not a race that we want them to try it out on.”

Lasersohn spent the past five years on the organizing committee, and previously was in charge of registration. He took over as race director this year, after Meg Meinerz, who held the position for the last four years, was unable to continue.

“We’re all volunteers, so luckily the previous race director did a good job leaving a nice file share for everything she did,” Lasersohn said.

The Fat Salmon Swim requires not only obtaining several permits from the city, but also contracts with the fire and police departments for an on-site medic and patrol boat, respectively. There are also 20-30 Seattle lifeguards hired on to monitor swimmers from paddle boards during the race, as well as when they reach Madison Park Beach.

But it’s the hundreds of volunteer hours and longtime sponsors that keep the Fat Salmon Swim running swimmingly every year, which includes 10 powerboats to shuttle swimmers who fall behind or can’t finish the race, and a number of kayakers to help keep racers on course; more kayak volunteers are still needed, Lasersohn said.

Registration opened in April, and will run through July 7. The race cuts off at 350 swimmers, and last year 341 people participated.

“Sometimes, if there’s space, we offer day-of registration,” Lasersohn said, “and we’ve been able to do that the last few years.”

Registration is at $80 in June, and will bump up to $90 from July 1-7. If there are still openings, same-day registration will be $100. As of June 4, there were already more than 250 people registered.

Those who are not USMS members will pay a $27 one-event registration fee.

Racers meet up at Madison Park Beach to check in, and then are carpooled to Day Street Park. Swimmers are released in five waves, with the fastest swimmers going last. The first wave will be released at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, July 13.

“They all have a timing chip,” Lasersohn said, “and their chip is programmed for which wave they’re in.”

Swimmers making landfall in Madison Park will find all of their clothes and personal effects brought back up from the starting point by Gentle Giant Moving Company, which has been a sponsor for Fat Salmon Swim since its inception, along with Starbucks and New Roots Organics.

Racers have the choice of swimming with or without a wetsuit, but Lasersohn said he prefers not only the insulation from the cold, but also the added buoyancy a suit provides.

“It really makes a difference,” he said. “Some would probably not consider swimming the race without a wetsuit because of the time difference.”

The prize for the Fat Salmon Swim is in the name, with the top finishers in the men, women, wetsuit and non-wetsuit divisions receiving a whole salmon, which for the past several years has been provided by Wild Salmon Seafood. Runners-up receive fillets and smoked salmon.

“One of the things I wanted to do as the race director was do something a little bit different with the awards,” Lasersohn said.

USMS also recognizes racers with ribbons based on the five age groups for the Fat Salmon Swim, but Lasersohn said he wanted to make the prize something people would get more excited about. This year’s top competitors will receive special metal Fat Salmon Swim water bottles in blue, red and white for first through third place.

Volunteers are also working on the Fat Salmon Swim’s 20th anniversary T-shirt.

“It’s really cool. We got connected with the founder who started the Fat Salmon Swim 20 years ago,” Lasersohn said.

Founding member Michael Meyer made it out from Georgia for the 2018 Fat Salmon Swim, and shared with MPT how the event was started in 1998 by Queen Anne and Green Lake master swimmers. Last year would have been the 20th anniversary, but there was no event in 2005, which was the year Meyer’s son was born. The Orca Swim Team took over as the organizer from the Green Lake Aqua Ducks.

Now Meyer has commissioned his brother and artist Mark Meyer to help with the design, Lasersohn said.

Find more information about the event and registration at