Musician dives into swimming routine at Edmonds’ Olympic Beach

Lyle Smith swims with his shark “chasing” him in October 2023. (Photo by Nick Ng)

Lyle Smith swam by the Edmonds Waterfront Center at Olympic Beach, towing an inflatable shark that gives the illusion of it chasing him. He has been swimming there almost every day since late June 2023, and in an interview, said he plans to be swimming regularly during the winter.

“The water temperature doesn’t change [much] throughout the year, but the air temperature does,” he said. “It’s not a problem. I’ve always been able to handle the cold.”

Smith said that he started swimming on the Edmonds waterfront this year after observing a young female swimmer while he was playing his guitar by the beach. He noticed that after two years, she was becoming more physically fit.  “I carefully mentioned that to her one day, and she started to cry,” he said. “She was so happy that I noticed. And I told her that you’re my inspiration to try to swim everyday.”

Because Smith had a hip replacement and two knee replacements several years ago, he became sedentary, which rendered him unable to walk for a long time. He promised himself then that he would not gain weight after the surgery, but he did. Since Smith started his swimming routine – and changed his diet – he has lost about 45 pounds. 

Lyle Smith has dropped 45 pounds since he starting swimming regularly and adjusting his diet. (Photo courtesy of Lyle Smith)

“I’m keeping that promise by losing that weight,” he said. “I think that the determination to swim in the cold water everyday gives me the strength mentally to not put crap in the pie hole,” Smith said. “So it’s a 100% diet and exercise that makes me feel better.” 

An Edmonds native, Smith said his parents moved to Edmonds from Utah after his father served in the U.S. Navy. His maternal grandfather was a Utah physician who was the family doctor for the Osmonds. His father worked as an electrician at Ewing Electric while his mother was a homemaker. 

“I could write a book about her,” Smith said of his mother, who was born with a “non-functional pancreas.” It’s a rare condition where the pancreas does not make enough insulin and other enzymes to digest carbohydrates. At age 18, his mother had a fever of 105 F and caught polio. She was also a poster child for March of Dimes in 1955, Smith added. When his father met her, she was in a wheelchair, but eventually she made a full recovery and was able to walk again.

Smith has been going to Olympic Beach since he was a toddler, and said he has seen many changes in that area of  Edmonds. He mentioned several buildings that no longer exist, including Andy’s Boat House, warehouses that used to manufacture bricks, and the former senior center

“There were rundown shacks along and between near the cedar mills,” Smith said. “That’s where the transients lived. There were a lot of unemployed [loggers] when I was a little kid. Most of them were from the  tar hills, and they had great music. I’d listen to them play down at the beach in those little shacks. They played jug music, the mountain music. The beach has history.”

A visitor chats with Lyle Smith at Olympic Beach while he plays his guitar in October 2021. (Photo by Nick Ng)

Today Smith still carries that tradition by the beach almost daily when the weather permits. Visitors occasionally sit or stand near him and ask him about his music.

“Every now and then people ask me to come play at different events,” he said. “But for the most part, I don’t like a schedule. I just play because it’s something I love to do. It’s an addiction.”

Now a bus driver for the Edmonds School District, Smith gets up at 5 a.m., then picks up students who attend Mountlake Terrace High School, Brier Terrace Middle School and Hilltop Elementary. After his morning shift, he goes swimming, does the afternoon bus run and finishes his day playing his guitar by the beach.

He said that he started playing in a band as a bass player in sixth grade with four other people in Edmonds. His first performance was at Edmonds Jr. High in 1969 where he played “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells. 

His first concert was on the flatbed of a pickup truck and played cover songs from The Monkees, like “Steppin’ Stone.” During high school, he played in local bands with Jim Smith from Unicam Entertainment. By the 1980s, Smith switched to playing more on the guitar than bass. 

Lyle Smith plays his guitar almost every day after his afternoon shift as a school bus driver. (Photo courtesy of Lyle Smith)

Smith said that he drew his early music inspiration from local street musician Phil Collins (not to be confused with the British singer and drummer in Genesis), who used to play with another local musician Jerry Openshaw by the beach. He called Collins his “mentor/tormentor.”

“Whenever I’m playing with him or around him, I feel like I’m always being judged,” Smith said. 

He also carries a book that he had put together with musical chords and lyrics from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Black Sabbath. “I probably did 500 covers from all of the above,” he said.

Smith lives with his wife Bonnie and their youngest daughter, Kelly, in Edmonds. They have four other children – Casey, Leslie, Jamie, and Corey – and 12 grandchildren, “with one on the way,” he added.   

Smith said he will continue to swim and would like to drop another 50 to 70 pounds. “At 67, I got a new outlook on life because of new knees. I want to be able to hike, bike ride and do the things I used to do,” Smith said. “I just like to play music, and I hope that people appreciate what I do.”

— By Nick Ng

 

    1. Interesting article. I was with 2 other friends at Arnie’s having lunch last week when we saw you swimming. We were talking about various classmates in bands we grew up with. We talked about that jr high dance when the band played Crimson and Clover! Yes, we are 3 of your classmates. Awsome what you are doing.

  1. What a delightful man! I love this story and he is an inspiration. I love Crimson and Clover, Lyle. All the groups you mention are dear to me also. Musicians are to me the most entertaining, philosophical human beings on the planet. I have so many friends and have since 7th grade that have enriched my life beyond belief. My friends are still playing together for like 60 years now. They are like brothers and those like me were lucky and get to be called the sisters. I went back for a reunion of one band 6 years ago and people came from all over the country just to reunite and hear them play once again. I can’t wait to see you playing on the beach. I want to hear you sing and play Crimson and Clover. BTW way good for you. Congratulations.

    1. Saw you at beach, was curious, but didn’t want to bother you. So cool to know your story! applaud your health journey! Love the shark !

  2. Lyle I just love you. I’ve been cold plunging multiple times a week at Olympic Beach since July and now I think it’s time to start swimming for real. You’re such an inspiration in so many ways. Thank you for being a father and friend to so many… you are the best if humanity…and ps, of course you’re the one that has the floaty shark following you :). See you at the beach!

  3. Miss you buddy! Congrats on the goals set and progress made. Keep enjoying your life and helping others along the way. I know you do that.

  4. If I see a shark while playing the Uke with Edmonds Aikanes at the Waterfront Center…I won’t panic! What a heartwarming story with the humorous twist!

  5. Lyle, are those knees ready to Ski again?
    You better get a water proof pen to start signing autographs:)
    Way to go Edmonds High School Grad (Bonnie too)

  6. I visit Brackett’s Landing often. I am a radio announcer on the American Blues Network and a song writer. Hopefully one day we’ll be on the beach together and can meet. I’ve just been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and I love meeting other folk in the creative world of song

  7. That’s a fantastic story! Lyle has brought to our attention the fascinating musical history of the beach. And taking up open water swimming at his age is amazing. What an inspirational fellow!

  8. Lyle, you are an inspiration in so many ways; now and back when we where learning our instruments, studying music and figuring out how to play Crimson and Clover! My best childhood friend forever. Your mom was equally an inspiration growing up. Proud of what you are doing and your goals set out. Can’t wait to hanging out and play some tunes. Love you brother!

  9. That’s my dad! I love this article! Nick did an amazing job on it. Dad, thank you for always sharing your love for music and swimming with your inflatable shark. Love you!

  10. Lyle, you have a whole yoga class full of admirers who can see you swim from our room at the EWC Tuesday mornings! We are in awe of your swimming skills & tenacity no matter what the weather is like. And of course we love Sharky trailing you!

  11. Good story about you Lyle, I am glad that you found things that continue to bring you joy and personal improvements in life !!

  12. Lyle,
    We just met tonight outside the Senior Center. I was walking with my dog Brody. I came home to look up the article about your swimming with a shark floaty> Here you are! It was a pleasure to meet you Sir! I didn’t get to see you swim or hear your music but what a lovely conversation between strangers. You are an inspiration and age, is just a number.
    Thank you!
    Hope

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