Suitless in the Sound


Danna Webster, KP News

On Dec. 27, Evan Stanley leaves the water after a swim in Gig Harbor Bay. Photo by Danna Webster

Two days after Christmas, some folks having lunch at Tides Tavern were surprised to see a swimmer pull himself out of the water and onto the Tides’ dock. He wore swim trunks — no goggles, no hat — and had a rosy tone to his skin color.

He picked up a small pile of clothing and nonchalantly walked up the pier to the restaurant. “That’s Evan,” one waitress said.

It was a typical swim in the Sound for Evan Stanley who works part-time as a floor server at the Tides and is a resident firefighter for Ft. Ludlow. “My usual is to jump off the dock, swim to the light house and back. It takes about 10 minutes,” he says. On some days when he is working at the Tides, he runs from his home in Tacoma, jumps in the water for his swim, works, and runs back to Tacoma. He says he likes to do something out of the ordinary each day whether for one minute or 45.

The water in the Sound on this swim is about 50 degrees and that means his body temperature drops during the swim but Evan thinks anybody can do it. “It’s a mind over matter game,” he says, “I relax and take my mind somewhere else.” He is cautious about what he calls brain freeze which causes disorientation. “I swim with my head out of the water. It’s unbearable to have my forehead under without a neoprene hat.”

Evan describes himself as an outdoor person and water has always been important to his life. Evan’s enthusiasm for the water stems from childhood. His father was his role model. He watched his dad swim and play in the water without a wet suit. A swim can be for a special occasion like New Years and birthdays or just because he feels like jumping in the water. He keeps a wetsuit in his car but says it isn’t necessary gear unless he swims for more than half an hour.

In the harbor, only two potential hazards concern him: the number of boats and, in the summer, a heavy rain can bring a lot of debris runoff. He is pleased with the new pipeline project because it will carry most of the debris straight out to Colvos Passage. He thinks swimming in Gig Harbor is fairly safe.  “I’m not out in the Narrows. There are docks and shores,” he says.

Evan wishes more people would swim the harbor. He has one dedicated swim partner but finding others is a tough sell.  He’d like to turn people on to reducing their fear and being in the water. “It’s something you can do in your back yard (since Puget Sound is our backyard) to reduce fears. It’s a real accomplishment. A very moving—super accomplishment--and it makes you feel better every time,” he says.

Evan and his occasional swim partner have one devoted fan. They call him Bob. Bob is a seal.  “We have a seal we swim with. The seal will swim underneath us. When we do nighttime swims with phosphorescence, Bob will swim underneath,” he says.

Evan lives in Tacoma but his parents live on the Key Peninsula. As a result, he has been swimming in many places around Key Pen. Glen Cove is a favorite spot. “A swim in Glen Cove is really warm in the summer. Warmest water ever found. High tide--long high tide in Glen Cove--is like bath water,” he says.

The ultimate swim for Evan is on the darkest of nights. “The best time, absolute 100 percent best time to swim, is in the pitch black with the phosphorescent glow. You can see fish, seals, everything. The quality of the night is dictated by how good the phosphorescence is,” he says.

The waters of Puget Sound beckon and anyone who feels like adding something extraordinary to the day might consider joining Evan for a swim, all you have to do is jump in.