Lake Washington was teeming with more than 300 swimmers making the annual journey from Day Street Park to Madison Park Beach on Saturday.
The Fat Salmon Swim had its 19th race this year, and is hosted by and benefits the nonprofit Orca Swim Team.
Competitors raced in waves, wearing ankle monitors that tracked their progress. The winner in each division received a sizable whole salmon from Wild Salmon Seafood, one of the event’s major sponsors. Swimmers could choose to wear a wet suit or simply a bathing suit.
Race director Meg Meinerz said things went smoothly that morning. The City of Seattle provides lifeguards, and there were motorboats along the race in case of emergencies, or if a competitor is too slow or can’t finish the 3.2-mile swim.
“We usually get two or three people pulled each year,” she said.
A large number of volunteer kayakers also helped keep racers on course.
Former Seattle resident Liza Von Rosenstiel makes an annual migration from Arizona to participate in the Fat Salmon.
“I come back to do this swim race and some other swimming events,” she said.
Von Rosenstiel said she’s done the swim at least 10 times, and she thinks it’s a well-organized event run by nice people.
She opted for a wet suit.
“Compared to The Sound, it’s pretty warm,” she said.
Michael Meluskey is on the Orca Swim Team, and he made this year his second swim.
“It was fun, so I wanted to come back,” said Meluskey, who operates Panther Creek and Delille Cellars in Woodinville.
He said finishing the race gives him a sense of accomplishment, and then he can rest up.
“I am going to have a big burger, a couple of beers and sleep,” Meluskey said of his plans following the race. “I can eat anything I want after this.”
Amar Shroff competed for the first time this year, and was part of the first wave of racers. His wife, Shati, said he’s a fish, always looking for an excuse to get in the water.
“I was looking for a swimming event, and I looked online, and this just came up,” Shroff said. “I’ve been training for about three months, but I’ve been swimming since my childhood.”
Randy Doblar has been alternating the past few years between the Fat Salmon Swim and Seattle to Portland bike ride, which take place the same time each year. Cyclists headed south on Lakeside Avenue Saturday, as swimmers readied to head north from Day Street Park to Madison Park Beach.
Doblar has been competing in triathlons for 30 years, and marathons for 40, he said, after jumping on the running fad when it started in 1977. He said he’s 400 miles short of a total of 80,000 run, but does not have a specific goal when it comes to swimming.
“What’s fun about these events is the energy of all these people,” Doblar said.
The Madison Park Times caught up with one of the Fat Salmon founders at the end of the race.
Michael Meyer said the Fat Salmon Swim actually started 20 years ago, but did not take place in 2005 — that was the year his son was born.
“It’s a really wonderful community,” he said. “My brother Mark and I designed the Salmon years ago.”
Meyer said there were the Queen Anne and Green Lake masters swimmers at the time, and people were always trying to find a good place for a swim in Lake Washington.
“You knew it was a wonderful body of water to swim from I-90 to here,” he said. “It was a really natural distance.”
Meyer moved to Georgia at the end of 2008, and said he comes back for the Fat Salmon Swim about every three years or so.
The first Fat Salmon had a $325 budget, which helped provide two “motorized dinghies,” Meyer said, and about 20 people participated in bad weather. Then 80 participated the second year, followed by 180 the third, and so on. The race is now capped at 350.
Meyer said this year a northeast wind caused a long fetch from the right, “so it pushes you into the coast.”