Cross-Channel Swim Monday

Swimmers’ view looking south at Hood River, as they plunge into the 2016 swim. Swimmers embark in flights of 10-12 at a time.

Photo by Matt Werbach
Swimmers’ view looking south at Hood River, as they plunge into the 2016 swim. Swimmers embark in flights of 10-12 at a time.

After a year of waiting, swimmers from across the globe prepare for the 75th anniversary of the most popular Labor Day swim in the Pacific Northwest.

Organizers of the Roy Webster Cross-Channel Swim planned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the event last year, but because of the hazardous air quality in the area, caused by the Eagle Creek fire, which started Labor Day weekend, the swim was canceled and the landmark anniversary postponed until Sept. 3 of this year.

The event began in 1942, when local orchardist Roy Webster challenged himself to swim across the Columbia River, and has only been canceled three times, including twice in the past 10 years.

Before last year’s postponement, the previous cancellation was 10 years ago because of strong wings making the water in the Columbia River too choppy to swim.

With only a couple days remaining before the swim, and air quality levels are much better than they were last year, but still not ideal. As long as there are not strong winds the morning of Sept. 3, this will be the year of the swim’s 75th anniversary, said event officials.

The swim begins with participants lining up for registration at 6 a.m. (this event is sold out), followed by swimmers boarding the Sternwheeler paddleboat at 7 a.m. on the south shore of the Columbia at the Hood River Port.

The 475 total swimmers from South Africa, England, New York, Florida, Canada, California and across the Northwest are then ferried across the river to the Washington shore for the beginning of the 1.2-mile swim.

Originally, because of the cancellation of last year’s event, this year’s swim was going to feature two boats ferrying participants to the beginning of the race to allow more people to sign up, but this would’ve caused too much traffic for the sheriff to control in the river, said event officials.

After the swim ends around 9 a.m., participants, organizers and spectators will gather at the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn for a special slideshow that will look back at the past 75 years of the Roy Webster Cross-Channel Swim.

The slideshow, which will be held in the Gorge Room, is the one thing that makes this year’s event different than those in the past.

Breakfast will also be served during the presentation, but due to the hotel’s guest breakfast offering, the Riverside dining room will only be able to accommodate registered guests in parties of six or less between the hours of 7:30-11:30 am on Labor Day morning.

All other Cross-Channel Swim participants and their friends and family desiring breakfast should reserve space for the buffet in the Gorge Room.

Awards and videos of the 2018 swim will also take place in the Gorge Room after the presentation.

For any more information about this event, visit

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