Courtesy Peninsula Daily News

It was the currents — not the cold or distance — that prevented Port Angeles native Rob DeCou from completing his swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca over the weekend. 

Currents Saturday forced DeCou to swim 31.25 miles instead of the planned 18.3 miles and as he came within 670 feet of the Canadian shore currents swept him back. 

Still, DeCou said he met all of his goals with the swim, aside from reaching land. He said the swim pushed his limits but he now knows he can more than swim the distance and that he can swim for at least 17 hours.

“Safety is always No. 1. I feel good about making the call,” DeCou said Sunday. “Even though we came up ever so short of landing on solid ground, I feel like we were successful in our efforts and have no regrets of making the calculated decision to call it a night.” 

DeCou started his swim from Dungeness Spit at about 6 a.m. Saturday and at 11:30 p.m. he was still in the water well past dark fighting changing currents. His team attempted to find alternative landing sites but decided to call off the swim. 

The 37-year-old athlete graduated from Port Angeles High School in 2000. He taught business and entrepreneur classes through Peninsula College at the Clallam Bay Correction Center from 2012 to 2014, and is now an executive producer working with video and animation in Los Angeles. 

DeCou said he didn’t understand the tides and currents as well as the thought he did, something he’ll look at closer before crossing any other bodies of water. 

“I was swimming for hours and I would look up and I wasn’t any closer than I was before,” he said. “It was the current pushing out … and your effort is holding you in the same position from land.” 

DeCou said he had ideal conditions for the crossing, with flat water almost the entire way and that he appreciated the encouragement he had from the community. 

He said the water was about as cold as he expected, but at times it felt like the temperature would drop about 5 degrees. He said his wet suit kept his core warm, though his hands and feet were cold. 

“Emotionally this is the best I’ve done on an ultra, just getting my head in a good positive space,” he said. “There’s times when you’re cold and you have to start thinking about positive things.” 

DeCou said this will prepare him for the Uberman ultra triathlon next year. 

“For me, this swim was a training swim for an event next year,” he said. “After the swim yesterday, I feel I can swim the channel.” 

The ultra triathlon includes swimming 21 miles from Catalina Island to Palos Verdes, a 400-mile bike ride that climbs 20,000 vertical feet and a 135-mile run through Death Valley. 

DeCou, wearing a wetsuit, would have been the 14th known person to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

Nine people have swum across the Strait without a wetsuit, eight of whom are recognized by the Northwest Open Water Swimming Association. 

Those who have made the crossing without wetsuits are Bert Thomas, Cliff Lumsdon, Amy Hiland, Ben Laughren, Marilyn Bell, Vicki Keith, Andrew Malinak, Susan Simmons and Melissa Blaustein. 

DeCou sought to raise funds for preventing human trafficking. As of Sunday afternoon, his Facebook fundraiser had 193 donations totaling $9,719. 

Donations can be made at or to his Facebook fundraiser “Rob’s Swim to Help End Human Trafficking.” 

Donate to the Effort

Donations can be made at or on Rob Decou's Facebook fundraiser “Rob’s Swim to Help End Human Trafficking.” 


Fighting Child Exploitation in Cambodia

Children For The Great Commission

The Children for the Great Commission (CGC) is a school and church made to spread the gospel in areas where there is little hope. Numerous Vietnamese refugees fled to Cambodia for various reasons but fell into a trap with no way to escape. Cambodia would not accept them as citizens  while Vietnam would not accept them back. They were treated poorly. Many were not allowed to live on Cambodian land so they were forced to build on the polluted water. Schools and churches are sparse and many would  not allow the Vietnamese to attend. The CGC was built to fill these  vacancies and give hope for the future. To do this, the CGC teaches  English, Vietnamese, math, computers and music but the most important  teaching is the Bible. The CGC understands that in order to help people and give them genuine hope, they must know the truth of the Gospel. That is why everything the CGC teaches leads back to Christ.

Rotary Club of Torrance Del Amo Efforts

Rotary Club of Torrance Del Amo has made a multi-year commitment  to help the fight against Sex Trafficking and Child Exploitation in Cambodia. The club's small contribution to this school will help keep at least 250 children in school this year.

rotarians in action

Beds For Rescued Victims

An emergency shelter, serving the greater Los Angeles region, recently opened  and serves female survivors, rescued from sex trafficking. Survivors may stay for a period of 90 days and are given room and board, while they prepare to move into a two-year transitional program at another facility supported by C.A.S.T. (the Coalition To Abolish Slavery And Human Trafficking). 

Rotarians generously partnered with C.A.S.T. on this project. Monies donated to the Rotary International District 5280 Charitable Foundation by 12 of the District’s Rotary Clubs were used to fund the purchase of beds and bedding. C.A.S.T. salutes and thanks these Rotary Clubs. The bedrooms at the shelter have been named after the following clubs or club members who made donations: Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Colombo Americano, Carson Gardena Dominguez, Glendale Sunrise, Little Tokyo, Northeast LA, Rancho Park, Santa Clarita Valley, Southwest L.A., Westchester and Woodland Hills. 

Eight volunteers, from the Rotary Clubs of Santa Clarita Valley and Westchester, assembled 16 beds at the confidential site of the new shelter. A lot of sweat equity was contributed by Santa Clarita Valley Rotarians Alexx Rufus, Carol Chiodo and Joseph Ang, as well as Westchester Rotarians Tori Hettinger, Vanessa Galvin and Betty Virgen (friend of the Rotary Club of Westchester), led by project foreman Chris Ball, immediate past president of Santa Clarita Valley Rotary Club and his assistant forewoman, Past District Governor and Westchester Rotarian Cozette Vergari. The location is confidential, and, all  volunteers signed a confidentiality agreement not to disclose the location, to protect the safety of the shelter and the victims from their traffickers.

The afternoon project was a WIN-WIN for all!!!