So that was the fanciest way I could think to say our swim got shut down half way through due to a couple thousand birds chowing down on a big bait ball off the pier :) I can’t complain too much about today’s swim because at least we got in. Before I left for the beach I got a call from Niel who had driven down early. He said Avila was majorly fogged in (you couldn’t even see the buoy line from the beach) and that there were big groups of birds on either side of the pier. I decided to go to the beach anyways and just hope the birds would split and the fog wouldn’t be so thick that a swim was out of the question.
By the time I hit the beach the fog was most definitely in full effect over the water even if it was pretty clear in town. There were birds flying around but I didn’t see them grouped in any major way from the shore. We had 5 guys total show up and we decided to give it a go and hope for the best. As we waded out into the waves I could see a lot more bird life flying and diving but it wasn’t too crazy. I was a touch apprehensive but I wasn’t going to give up an ocean swim over it.
Since there was a ton of fog and major glare to the right hand side of the pier we planned to keep close to the buoy line and swim at the sun first so that when we swam back down the length of the buoy line the sun would be at our backs. We ended up swimming under the pier a little closer to shore than usual because there were a lot of guys fishing in the spot we would usually cross under. The water on the other side of the pier was decidedly colder than what we had started with! Niel had measured 60 degrees on the left hand side… it felt closer to 57 on the right. On the way down to the last buoy on the right side I saw more birds cruising around and lots of little splashes from diving. We paused to regroup at the end of the line and we were surrounded by a lot of seals. There were some big boys in the mix too! I was starting to feel a little more uncomfortable. Lots of birds and lots of seals has a tendency to leads to a couple of sharks and I didn’t need any of that in my day.
From here the plan was to swim back under the pier to where we started and then down to the other end of the buoy line. I hung right on Niel’s hip the whole way there. With all that wildlife floating around I felt better a little more buddied up with somebody than forging my own line through the water.
When we paused on the other side of the pier the bird activity had gotten much heavier. We debated the merits of actually continuing from here. Personally I was pretty cool with bailing out. The flotilla of birds that had been forming was pretty formidable already and I could see a solid flow of birds en route to the spot that apparently no one else could see just yet. The guys decided to take it just a little bit further and see what happened… Well it just got thicker! After about 200m we all kind of stopped and looked at each other to reassess our decision. 3 out of 5 decided to not tempt fate. Me, Niel and Pete made a left hand turn for the beach and watched our other 2 disappear into birds and fog.
I took some video from the beach that gives you a little better idea of what we were dealing with. The fog kept me from getting anything too great, but you can see lots of birds and the seals cruising the outsides of their circle.
Eventually Ryan and Eric came back to the beach… I’ll admit they made me a little nervous. Especially since we couldn’t see where they were due to the fog. There’s a good chance those of us that got out were a little overly cautious, but seeing as Avila Beach is the home to a real live fatal shark attack within the last 7 years or so you really don’t want to put yourself into situations that don’t look good if you don’t have to. We’re planning to go back out on Sunday and Monday (Labor Day) and hopefully the oceanic snack bar isn’t right in the middle of our swim course next time!