FAQs and Swimmer information

Last update: 8 March 2019

The information on this page is likely to be incomplete and will get updated as people ask more questions and as plans fall into place. Check back again, especially as we get closer to race day!


Touch this to finish.

Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island, WA.

Swimmers will enter the water from the public fishing docks inside the park. Docks can be found most easily from the "North" parking lot.

A large buoy will be tied to the end of one of the docks and swimmers will line up parallel to it for the start. Swimmers shall touch the buoy at the finish.

Exiting the water is a bit more of a challenge than entering. We will work on the best spot and have volunteers there to help you climb out and get shoes on your feet as quickly as possible. Likewise, help will be provided to get the kayaks out too.

There are restrooms available at the start/finish, but set expectations accordingly...they are not glamorous. There are no showers.


Directions and downloadable park map are available on Mercer Island’s website. There's plenty of parking available, cars can be left all day. It's a 5-minute downhill walk on a paved path from the parking lot to the docks/water.


(subject to change)

  • 6:30 - 7:00 Check in, match up kayaks/paddlers/swimmers

  • 7:00 - 7:20 Mandatory Safety Meeting for all swimmers, kayakers, volunteers and motor boats

  • 7:20 - 7:55 Final prep time, load boats with gear and into water, get ready to swim

  • 8:00 You're off!

Please give yourself plenty of time to arrive at Luther Burbank Park. As I'm sure everyone knows, time flies on race day.


This may seem obvious to seasoned veterans, but...make your gear checklist early and pack your bag ahead of time so you don't forget anything! Remember to bring warm clothes and hats, etc. It's almost always chilly near the water in Seattle in late May and you'll want them both before and after your swim.

Gear that does not fit on your kayak can be left behind at the park near the finish - rather than needing to be brought back to your car which may not be super close by. Volunteers will ensure that it is watched while you are in/on the water.


While it is Seattle, the sun does shine. Come prepared, but they also sell sunscreen in the Northwest.


Swimmers are responsible for their own food/drink during the race. Your kayaker must carry everything you need for the duration of the event. Motor boats will have some extra jugs of water in case your kayaker needs to refill a bottle or mix additional feeds along the way.

Snacks will be available at the start/finish that people can eat or pack themselves a little goody bag (e.g. bagels, granola bars, apples, cheese, peanut butter), but this is probably more appropriate for volunteers than swimmers and paddlers. Of course if you are particular about what you eat on race day, please plan accordingly and bring it with you.


All swimmers will be provided with a latex cap on race day. If you're not a fan of new caps and prefer to wear your own good-luck cap, that's fine, however it must be bright (yellow, orange, pink, red, neon are all ok). Everyone should be as visible as possible despite the fact that you'll always have a boat nearby. Silicone caps are fine. Neoprene and bubble caps are not fine (see the Rules).


For those swimmers who are coming from out of town and need a kayak for their paddler, we can facilitate the rental for you for a fee. All paddlers will need to fill out this form in order to participate in the race: FORM LINK TBD.


The swim will be tracked. The link for friends to follow will be: track.rs/nowsa.


Your swim will be observed by NOWSA volunteers on roving motor boats. Your kayaker will assist them in providing information with regard to feeds, how you're doing, funny quotes, etc.


There will be an optional gathering and pay-your-own-way type of deal on the Thursday prior to the race. Time and location TBD. Likely Dukes at Alki Beach in West Seattle. Family, friends, volunteers all included.

There is no post-event ceremony or dinner since swimmers can finish up to three hours apart and you’re probably tired. However, we’ll encourage you to swing by Alki again on Saturday morning at 9:30 and swim in the Puget Sound with the local group, or just wave hello and go to breakfast at the beach instead.


Mercer Island - Shortest Route

The start and finish are at Luther Burbank Park, which is on the NE side of Mercer Island. Swimmers will circumnavigate Mercer Island in a clockwise direction. The island is "scalloped". Kayaks should always navigate from point to point for the shortest route, rather than following the shoreline. There are points where you will be close to the shore of Mercer Island, and other points where you're seemingly in the middle of the lake. On the west side of MI, you'll actually be swimming closer to Seattle if you're swimming the shortest line. As one kayaker said last year, "you're swimming the convex hull of the island." Other than the buoy at the start/finish, there will be no additional race markers on the course.


Lake Washington is large and water temperature will fluctuate frequently from day to day and in different locations. E.g. It may be 62 deg F at the start and drop down to 58 between the south end of the island and Seward Park, on the west side. Be sure to have plenty of cold water acclimatization before attempting this swim!

Most of the wildlife you will see is above the water. Eagles, ducks, geese, planes. You're unlikely to see many fish. Lake Washington is fresh water, thus shark sightings are extremely infrequent.


9 hours. As stated in our Swim Safety Plan, and assuming race starts on time at 8 am, "17:00 [is] Final cutoff, event director discretion".


There will be motor boats on the course if you need to abort your race. In a nutshell, you inform your kayaker, kayaker will call a boat, someone will scoop you up as quickly as possible.

Support boats will have towels and hot liquids on board to provide some warmth just in case. Consider bringing a small (small!) dry bag to give to your kayaker with warm clothes, just in case.


Yes, we will need motor boats and humans in a variety of positions. Please fill out the appropriate form