Seattle man set to attempt historic, dangerous swim

SEATTLE -- If all goes well, one man will soon cross the border from Canada into the United States, and he'll do it in the most difficult manner imaginable.

When Andrew Malinak tells people his odd border crossing plans, people give him funny looks. He's new to Seattle, and when he moved here he decided he wanted to go for a nice long swim.

Then he thought he might like to make history at the same time by swimming from the tip of Vancouver Island across the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

Even on a warm summer day, the water in West Seattle is cold.

"It's good. I've gotten really used to it," Malinak said. "A couple months ago this would have been terrible."

Cold tap water is about 50 degrees, and that's what Malinak is swimming in. And he's doing it without a wet suit.

"Once you get in, the nerves in your skin sort of go numb to the cold," he said.

Malinak said as far as he can tell, the 12 miles swim has only been done successfully seven times. He'll take his chances on Sunday, and he thinks it will take him roughly six hours in the water.

"Well it helps that I really love the sport, so even on a bad day swimming is much more fun than not swimming," he said.

Malinak has been working with the Coast Guard and has a team that will follow him in a boat and a kayak to help if he gets in trouble.

He's been planning the swim for eight months, but admits there's a lot that could go wrong. In addition to bad weather and strong currents, Malinak has to worry about big ships, killer whales and hypothermia.

"Even orcas that aren't there to eat you can cause problems, just being curious, just being large animals that can do unpredictable things," Malinak said. "So as much as I'd love to see one someday, I'm hoping it's not this weekend."

The first person to make the swim was Bert Thomas in 1955, and Malinak is determined to be the latest.

"I'll be out there in a single cap, a pair of goggles, earplugs, and a Speedo," he said.

The last person who tried to swim across the strait was Peter Urrea in 1999. He had to abandon the swim when he was surrounded by a pod of orcas.