▶️ Bend man wins longest open water swimming event in North America


A Bend man has won the longest endurance swimming event in North America and set a record while doing it.

Jamie Proffitt, a physician from Bend, swam 36 miles in the Red River in North Dakota last weekend.

We caught up him at Juniper Swim Center where he was trying to loosen up his sore muscles.

“It’s the longest race in North America. It’s supposed to be hard. It was hard.”

On June 18th, Proffitt won the Extreme North Dakota Water Sports Endurance Test.

He swam 36 miles in 8 hours and 31 minutes with competitors nipping at this heels the entire way.

“At the very end I looked back and she was maybe 100 yards behind me. I was like holy moly. I thought I had a 1.5 miles to go. Luckily it was like 500 yards and the way the river was flowing, I cruised in. She was like a minute behind me and he was three minutes behind me.” 

Proffitt is 58 years old.

He’s been a competitive swimmer since high school.

He says he’s always been good in the pool, but he prefers and does better in long-distance open water swimming events.

“You take in some nutrition every 30 minutes. So you stop, well… tread water in a flowing river for 15-to 30-seconds to take in some fluids, but yeah, you go.”

The swimmers traveled from rural North Dakota into East Grand Forks, Minnesota on the Red River which floods frequently.  

This time of year the water temperature averages 70 degrees and the river runs 20 feet deep.

“You could look at the shore and tell you were moving. But you’d get into some places with eddies and it was just swirling you around. You did your best and your kayaker guided you.”

Proffitt competes regularly in open water swimming events.

He won the Tampa Bay swim in 2019, a 24-mile challenge across Tampa Bay against the tide, wind and waves.

“I was pretty sore the day after the race but yesterday I felt okay so I told some of my swimming friends I was going to come take some laps.”

“How far did you swim today?”

“2,400 meters, about a mile and a half.” 

Nothing compared to the 36 miles he swam a few days prior. 

Proffitt says he likes events that are off the beaten path. And once he’s completed one, he moves on to the next.

“I’ve always had my eye on the triple crown of open water swimming which is Manhattan Island, English Channel and the Catalina Channel. The older I get the harder it is to do those and train for and recover. So we’ll see. Those are always in the back of my mind.”

Proffitt swims regularly in the Deschutes River and Elk Lake.

He says he moved here for the clean mountain water.

If you see him, congratulate him on his latest achievement.



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