By Ben Olson
Since its inception in 1995, the annual Long Bridge Swim has seen tens of thousands of swimmers cross the long stretch of water alongside the iconic Long Bridge. Some compete with all their might, others laugh and smile at their friends and family swimming by their side. It’s the perfect mix of health, competition and fun.
The 27th annual Long Bridge Swim will take place Saturday, Aug. 6. There will be a mandatory safety meeting at Sandpoint High School at 8 a.m., followed by shuttles taking all swimmers to the south end of the Long Bridge where the swim will commence. Those interested in registering should visit longbridgeswim.org before the Friday, Aug. 5 deadline, which is the last chance to submit registration. There will be no race-day registration.
The event was founded by Eric Ridgeway in 1995, who wanted to establish a positive community event in Sandpoint. The first year, just 68 people took part. Attendance in recent years has averaged around 700 participants.
“My fondest memories from being the founder of the event and the director for the first 19 years are two things,” Ridgeway told the Reader in 2021. “Working with the wonderful and cheerful volunteers who make it all possible, and the sense of accomplishment from the swimmers who are not the greatest swimmers — they have never been on a swim team and were so nervous that they may not be able to make it — but they persevered and they felt encouraged along the way by the awesome kayakers and all the fans walking along the bridge cheering for them.”
As Ridgeway pointed out, the Long Bridge Swim isn’t just for avid swimmers. In fact, people of all ages and body types turn out in droves for the event.
“We had a woman who did it a number of years with MS, and she wanted us to unceremoniously dump her off the dock from her wheelchair — at her insistence — so she could swim the event,” said Jim Zuberbuhler, who took over as director after Ridgeway’s 20 years of stewardship. “We’ve had a couple of parapalegics, deaf and blind swimmers, a couple of morbidly obese people, which is really great.”
Zuberbuhler is also very thankful for the small army of volunteers it takes to run this event every year.
“We have a very committed group of people who run their areas,” he told the Reader. “They are so committed, so passionate about this. … We have no ego conflicts, no personality clashes. Everybody’s committed to the entire enterprise.”
The last chance to register for the swim is during early packet pickup from 5:30-7 p.m. at Sandpoint High School, 410 Division St. Those who want to pick up their packets on race day may do so Saturday, Aug. 6 from 6:30-7:30 a.m. At Sandpoint High School. Lines can get considerably long after 7:15 a.m., so plan accordingly. The mandatory safety meeting starts at 8 a.m. while the swim starts at 9 a.m. Fast swimmers who want to start in the water should load onto the front buses.
While the Long Bridge Swim is a lot of fun, it’s also an important fundraiser to help teach young people swim lessons in Sandpoint.
“Our entry fees offset event expenses, but we use the balance to provide swim lessons for local children,” according to the organization’s website. “The mission of our initiative is to see that no child in Bonner County gets past third grade without learning to swim. We hope for additional donations to support this life-saving and life-changing program.”
For more information, visit longbridgeswim.org.
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