Despite the Coronavirus lockdown, the Red Tide, a threat of cold water, and smoke from California fires – I successfully completed the 13.5 miles swim from Swami’s (Cardiff) to La Jolla Cove on September 13th, 2020. AKA C2C2020.
It was a wonderful experience – Here’s a recap of the day…
The Start – Swami’s Beach 9/13/2020 at 6am
Before first light, Jeanie and I walked down the road to Swami’s Beach.
All I carried was my goggles, swim cap, ear plugs and an orange inflatable pull buoy. I had a good nights sleep, a bowl of hot oatmeal, blueberries and a banana for breakfast. I was focused on the day ahead and ready for the long swim.
Fellow swimmers Emily Hammer and Lon Barr were at the top of the Swami’s stairs to greet me and wish me luck. We said a quick hello. (Emily and Lon swam with me on most Tuesday’s and Thursday’s at Swami’s in the week’s leading up to the 9/13/2020 swim.)
Diane and Don Ridgeway were also early risers to see me off. Diane has several triathlons and Iron Man’s to her credit.
Then Jeanie and I walked down the stairs to meet Mike Redman, who was getting ready and waiting with his kayak at the bottom of the stairs.
Here’s a link to the Southern California Swim Along FaceBook page.
After a few words of thanks and gratitude, I put my ear plugs in, my swim cap on and handed my clothes to Jeanie.
I gave her a kiss for good luck. I think I said “See you at La Jolla Cove”.
Slipping into the Water and heading South
The weather was as forecast – no wind, small waves, light fog and smooth conditions. The water temperature was about 69°F.
I started swimming south. Mike soon joined me after a minor kayak launching mishap.
The southerly current and smooth conditions make swimming easy, and as daylight broke, I was well on my way and ahead of schedule on the first leg of my swim.
Two Hours Later: Fletcher’s Cove
Mike guided me to swim about a half mile offshore. I could see the quarter mile buoy at Fletcher’s Cove, but the fog obscured the shoreline.
I invited fellow swimmers to join me along the way. The fog made it a challenge for them to see us. I asked Mike to paddle in towards the shore to locate the swimmers, while I continued swimming south.
Joel Dorfan told me after the swim that he had walked north along the beach trying to get a visual sighting – to no avail. Joel is a Jack of All Trades. Here’s link to his YouTube Channel.
Thank you to Mike Redman and Southern California Swim Along for taking GoPro videos during the swim. Video selections along the way:
Soon I noticed a couple of swimmers with orange swim caps behind me. It was Joel and Steve Royce swimming out to join me.
Steve Royce (at the awards ceremony after the Waikiki Invitational Swim 2019)
Here’s my blog about my swim with Steve in Hawaii – read all about the Wikiki Loooong Swim.
Much to my surprise, Rick Laird’s smiling face was also there.
Video Selections along the way:
After a brief “hello” in the water, the four of us swam in a pod heading towards Del Mar. Joel accompanied us until Dog Beach and pealed off to return to Fletcher’s. Rick continued for a while longer and then headed back.
Off to Del Mar Powerhouse Park
Steve and I continued with Mike kayaking between us. Steve was also towing a bright orange inflated pull buoy. In the dry pouch he tucked away a bladder of water. He’d take a sit of water every so often.
After the first hour and every half hour thereafter, Mike stopped me for a feeding. I had prepared four plastic bottles; two filled with water and the others contained a diluted mixture of powdered carbohydrates and electrolytes. I tucked away a power bar and a few grapes in a plastic zip lock bag – just in case.
Danny and his Skiff meet us at Seaside
Soon we saw Danny Oliver join us from a distance in his 28 foot skiff. Upon hearing my about my swim goal, Danny, a Solana Beach resident volunteered to accompany Mike and me for most of the swim. We were swimming a good half mile offshore, and his presence was reassuring and gave us a sense of safety.
Steve continued swimming for the next four hours before boarded Danny’s boat.
Organizational Meeting a couple of weeks before the swim
Danny, Mike and I met at my home a couple of weeks before the swim to discuss the logistics of the swim. Dan Simonelli joined us. Dan guided and coached me with a schedule of long training swims. His advice was indispensable. He is well know is the open water swimming circles.
Ship to shore – aye aye Skipper
In addition to giving us a sense of safety, Danny periodically sent WhatsApp texts to my swim group to give them an update of our location. This was important for people who wanted to meet us at the finish.
Danny took the following video of Steve, Rick and me in the water pulling orange buoys and Mike in his blue kayak.
The currents and conditions were very favorable and we were ahead of schedule. I knew the forecast called for the wind to pick up and for choppy conditions during the afternoon for the second half of the swim.
Torrey Pines State Beach where things began to change
About five hours into the swim, we arrived at Torrey Pines State Beach, where we were to meet Kevin Paine. We looked towards the shore trying to get a sighting of Kevin. Surprising us, he appeared from the west, further out in the water, where he had been treading water for an hour.
Soon we were on our way again, this time it was the three amigos – Kevin, Steve and me. As expected, the wind started to pick up and the wind shifted from the north to the west. Fortunately, low clouds prevented the sun from beating down on my back.
Half Way There – This Is Hard
After about four hours in the water, we arrived at Flat Rock Beach.
The Torrey Pines shoreline has high cliffs and is picturesque. The edge of the green fairways of the famed Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course was clearly visible from the water.
Further south the Torrey Pines Glider Port was busy . Brightly colored hang gliders hovered over the cliffs.
This may all sound like a bit of a travelogue. However, at a scheduled feeding, Mike began to give me a pep talk, when I told him “this is hard”.
A few minutes after the feeding I stopped swimming again feeling weak. I decided to chew and swallow half a power bar and a few grapes. I’m glad I did, because it gave me a boost of energy.
Learning about feedings was trial and error. Thanks to John Davis and Diane Corbin for their guidance. John is a tri-athlete with an Ironman under his belt. Diane completed three major swims in 2019: the Catalina Crossing, 20 Bridges around Manhattan and the English Channel swim.
Digging deep, I swam into the chop and bigger swells. Mike said we needed to move further offshore to prevent his kayak from being capsized.
It was very encouraging to have Kevin swimming near me. He is an excellent swimmer and slowed down for me. It was also encouraging to catch glimpses Scripps Pier in the distance, between the swells.
Scripps Pier in the distance – almost there
A couple of hours later we arrived at Scripps Pier. Emily, who was at Swami’s at 6am to see me off, met us in the water at the end of the pier. She’s also an accomplished swimmer. Soon she and Kevin swam ahead.
Video Selections along the way:
I was very encouraged at that point. I knew I was only about a mile and a half from La Jolla Cove. I felt good and energized. My turnover rate increased as I rotated with each stroke. I swam strong as Mike accompanied me.
At the Quarter Mile Buoy – no kayaks or boats allowed
Soon I saw four orange swim caps in the water at about the quarter mile buoy. Mike pointed to a drone overhead. The picture below is from the drone and was sent to me by a friend who happened to be standing next to the drone pilot.
Kayaks and boats aren’t permitted in the swimming lane near the Cove. So, as planned, I said goodbye and thank you to Mike and Danny, who went off to ￼their respective exit points.
Video Selection along the way:
I swam towards the four orange swim caps. The smiling faces of: Steve, Kevin and Emily. I was surprised and happy to see Matt Fennell, who came to swim the final stretch with me.
We swam in formation and headed straight towards the stairs near the lifeguard tower at La Jolla Cove. Soon the sandy bottom with kelp, rocks and garibaldis became visible.
The finish – La Jolla Cove – 3pm (9 hours later)
My escort dropped back a bit allowing me finish first. Soon we were all standing on the beach giving each other high fives.
Video Selection along the Way:
Several people who came to see me at finish were waving and hollering. I lift my arms up to thank and acknowledge them, and also to acknowledge that I made it.
Jeanie was on the beach. I gave her a kiss and hug.
One thing I was unsure about was how I would feel when I finished the swim. It was then that I knew – I finished strong and felt good and relieved.
Soon I was up the stairs to thank the my friends and supporters who waited patiently for me to finish. It took me about 9 hours.
As I write this recap about two weeks after the swim, I still have a good feeling about the experience. The journey – from when I first envisioned the Cardiff to Cove swim, to the feeling of setting my feet on the sand at the finish – was amazing.
Although I made my goal., ie. Cardiff to Cove swim, I am still short of my fund raising goal. If you can, please help put me over the top. Thank you!