Beth with a swimmer on a day with much smaller surf

The Distance Swim Challenge is fast approaching (less than a month away!) and my Kayaker for the event, Beth Barnes, went out this weekend to try and paddle the course with some swimmers. The ocean didn’t necessarily agree with this plan, but there’s a lot to learn from her excursion for those of you like me that are planning to swim the 12.6 mile race! Here’s the note she sent me about it:

Yesterday I was asked to be support kayaker to two young ladies who will be swimming the October 16th Distance Swim Challenge from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica. As I have already committed to be Rob D’s support kayaker for the actual race day, I jumped at the chance to paddle the course to give Rob and me a little advantage on race day.

We arrived on time after a major logistical undertaking of meeting at Rose Avenue then reloading my kayak on someone elses car to go down to Manhattan, then swim back to our cars at Rose Avenue.

When we arrived, the rest of the folks we were meant to meet were in various stages of arrival and preparedness. We waited dutifully for everyone to gather so we could launch the kayaks together and at least begin the swim as a unit. As it happened, the other kayaks launched and got underway as Rebecca, Amy and I stood to assess the pounding waves, 3-5′!

It was Manhattan’s first major swell in 6 weeks according the Lifeguards who stopped frequently to ask why we were attempting to launch in such huge waves. Of course, we explained that we had a swim to do, much to their dismay. Judging by the amount of surfers in the water, it was obvious that the break favored surfing and not trying to push out with a kayak. The other three kayaks powered by men got out with some trouble, but they at least got out through the surfline. We never achieved our goal.

It is a fine and developed art to be able to read the sets and then to grab the short window of launching opportunity and although Amy, Rebecca and I tried three times, each time we got beaten back. Almost had it once, but one last wave tumbled the kayak, with me in it and it wasn’t long before we ended up back on shore with all the supplies, and us, in disarray! Thankfully everything was tethered in bags with carabiners but it was still not an optimal way to start a ten mile swim, with a kayak, and kayaker in disarray!

After three unsuccessful attempts we had to plea defeat. Another lifeguard truck approached and said it was wise that we choose that path and he told us that it looked awful from where he was standing and if it looks awful from shore we could be sure that it was ten times more awful in the thick of it. We knew that!

It was a terrible pity that the kayakers did not stick together to help one another because although as a kayaker, I have incredible endurance for distance paddling, I am slight of build and could not find the power to see me through that last big wave. It required a blast of incredible energy to meet the ferocious wave head on and make it through to the other side. I did not have that power, hence, my third defeat! I am not ashamed, I gave it every ounce of energy and perseverance I had, as did Rebecca and Amy in their attempt to guide me out.

Unfortunately, my swimmers had to forfeit their chance to swim the course and I felt responsible all day. Not a good feeling for me, but they were kind and understanding. They did the 2 mile circuit between the Manhattan and Hermosa piers and although not their ideal, they never once complained. Thanks Rebecca and Amy.

So, the moral of the story is to pray, pray, pray for no waves the day of the race. I am hoping that the race director will have an alternative plan for launching kayaks and if not, that he will at least have experts available to help the kayakers launch through the waves. Once past the breakline, we’ll be home free to escort our swimmers as best we can. From what I could see at the finish, the waters should be fairly easy to negotiate.

If you are a swimmer then please be sure that your kayaker is prepared for waves and that their kayak is fully equipped to endure dumps. This means mesh bags and carabiners and nothing that is free to escape an upturned kayak. It maybe something you need AND we want to ensure that we leave no rubbish free to end up on the beach.

I invite anyone who is interested in learning more to contact me at: www.ikayak4u.com.  I’m always happy to share my experiences, good and bad in order to further the cause of being the best kayakers we can be for our swimmers because…our swimmers rock!

Beth on our 5 mile swim in Alamitos Bay last month

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