A competitor and support kayak in the 2015 race.
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THE NOVELTY OF SWIMMING in the farthest north swim race in the United States is part of what draws competitors to the annual Change Your Latitude race in Sitka, says race director Kevin Knox. “The other part is we just put on a really fun event,” he says. The annual swim race typically takes place in August and includes 1k, 3k, 6k, and 10k options. Before the race, swimmers can choose to take part in relaxed adventure swims. Local boat captains will ferry swimmers to a remote location and let them swim for about an hour. During the pre-race safety meeting the day prior to the race, a professional chef puts together a meal of Alaskan salmon and other locally sourced food. “People really have a great time with this event,” Knox says. “It’s been growing every single year and I think a lot of it is the word of mouth.” The race started after an adventure
athlete from San Diego swam nearly 17 miles from Mount Edgecombe to Sitka, and got residents excited about the possibilities of open-water swimming. For its first few years, the race was a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. When Knox, who coaches Sitka’s Baranof Barracuda Swim Club, took over he turned the race into a benefit to support the swim team athletes, who range in age from five to 73. During race weekend, the water is typically in the high 50s or low 60s, so Knox says the temperature isn’t a huge barrier. Instead, the biggest obstacle is probably jellyfish, which have stung swimmers before. Though the stings aren’t life-threatening, they are painful, Knox says. Jellies aren’t the only animals on the course though. In past years, curious sea lions have appeared on race day and examined the racers, and pink salmon are sometimes swimming past on their way back to spawn.
(THIS PAGE) COURTESY CHANGE YOUR LATITUDE (OPPOSITE PAGE) COURTESY TEXAS 4000
The country’s northernmost swim race
A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M JULY/AUGUST 2019
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Alaska Magazine July 2019