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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swimming In Seattle, Lise Ellner Surrounded By Marine Beauty

Lise Ellner is an open water swimmer in Washington who swims several times a week in the East Passage between Vashon Island and Seattle. She is one of the few people who has swum the entire eastern side of Vashon Island in 3-4 mile increments.

The winter water temperature hovers about 45ºF (7ºC) while the summer maxes out at 55ºF (12.7ºC). "It is cold so I wear a wetsuit, booties, gloves and hothead. I usually swim 1.5-2 hours which depending on the current that nets a 2-3 mile swim," says the 53-year-old attorney. "I swim - slowly - in the Fat Salmon Open Water Swim in Lake Washington after swimming in the open water here for about 6 years. I fenced competitively and rowed crew [in college at Columbia University], but several back surgeries later, I became a swimmer."

Ellner is realistic of her goals and enjoys the open water like millions of others who have turned to the sport around the world - but with some interesting swim buddies. "“I don’t have anything to prove, but I enjoy it. I never competed in swimming as a kid. I am not fast, but have great endurance. Amy Bogaard and Ann White swim with me year-round. There are lots of curious seals in the area. They are not a threat, but then there are also sea lions that are huge and potentially aggressive. When the sea lions are about, we swim close to shore.

The underwater world where we swim is magnificent with a plethora of different colored star fish, sea anemone, crabs, perch, salmon, wild blue tinted seaweed, sea snails, sea cucumbers, different sea vegetables and jellyfish. Some of the jellies are small and do not sting, but others are microscopic and sting as do the large orange ones.

We swim within view of Mount Rainier. On a good day, we have eagles flying above and salmon jumping around in the water. All in all, it is a spectacular experience
."

While the marine life is overwhelmingly beautiful and varied, the trio of open water friends always are on the lookout for homo sapiens. "As for boats, whenever a boater is in the area, we make sure to flag the driver to ensure that they see us. We will not proceed without eye contact. We wear bright yellow, pink, green caps, but in many days we are invisible due to the chop. As a threesome, we swim farther from shore about 100-200 yards off shore at times, but we usually stay closer in when swimming solo. For example, I swam 5.2 miles along the Dungeness Spit (shown above) as a friend walked along the shore with me. The spit is a very narrow piece of land jutting into the Straights of Juan de Fuca. I stayed in close because of the chop and the water temperature was considerably colder the further from shore...where there were many, many seals about."

Photo by the State of Washington Department of Ecology.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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