letting the lifeguard know our route

It’s been a rough couple of days in the open water world. Within 24 hours we had two very strong reminders that the ocean can be a very dangerous place. There was the fatal shark attack 30 miles down the coast from here on Friday which was followed by the completely shocking loss of Fran Crippen in the hot waters of Dubai at a FINA 10k event on Saturday. Both of these events have been weighing pretty heavily on my mind. I didn’t know either guy personally, but it could have just as easily been me or any number of my friends in the same spot. Heavy stuff, but what am I going to do… stop swimming? Not a chance. I’m going to keep swimming in the ocean and applying my own safety precautions as best I can. Rob’s Ocean Rule Number 1 – Swim with a buddy… if someone would have been watching Fran this whole thing may have just been a scare and not a tragic death. Rob’s Ocean Rule Number 2 - avoid marine life, especially feeding marine life! There is no good reason to swim through the snack bar… if the birds and seals are chowing down, stay away because you don’t know who else might be coming to that party!

Niel en route to get the water temperature

When I got to the beach it was overcast with light rain coming down. Pretty gross. Upside is the parking was easy. I walked down to our meet up spot and saw Niel en route to the pier to get the water temp. I chased him down and we talked a bit while he let the thermometer bob around. It came up around 57.5. Not too cold, but when the weather above the water is as crappy as it was today it makes everything feel way colder. While up on the pier we looked around for sea life that would tip us off to any potential trouble. We saw maybe 5 birds floating around and no seals. By our standards, a pretty safe day to go swim because there was nothing delicious in the water to attract our large gray friends.

From here we both ran to our vehicles to get our swim stuff together. It was raining so I put everything in my truck except my keys and a pair of shorts. At the base of the stairs I ran into one of the dudes from the Kelp Krawlers in Monterey who I swam with not too long ago. He was in town for the car show and dropped by to say hi. We chatted a bit on the sidewalk and then came down to the beach to meet Niel since that was the entire swim group for the day.

The rain started to come down pretty good and Steve had to get back to the show. Niel ran over to the lifeguard stand to let them know what we were up to and then we walked down to the water. Just as I was stepping into the water a couple walking their dogs came by and this lady looks at me and asks “You’re swimming? You know about the shark right?” I smiled and said yes we know… but I really didn’t want to hear the “S” word right before I tossed myself into the ocean. She meant well, but the timing was poor. Luckily the water temperature made me forget all about it! Although I’m sure the real temperature was as advertised, it felt substantially colder than what Niel had measured off the pier. No sun plus cold rain made everything feel more like 54. While we stood around waiting for me to acclimate (it was hard today) some pretty healthy waves rolled through. Like spray hitting the bottom of the pier big. Once there was a break in the set we took off.

The swim to the buoy line was longer than usual because the tide was way in. We stopped for a minute just to make sure everyone was feeling ok before we took on the rest of the distance to the end of the pier. The route of the day was just around the pier since the weather was bad and I’m still not 100% post 12 miler. The water out past the breakers was amazingly calm. Really smooth and glassy, but rolling. There were visible swells on their way to the beach, but they didn’t really disturb us any.

taking a break at the end of the pier

We paused at the end of the pier and talked for a while. It was very serene. Smooth, rolling water with a light rain falling on it. Despite the bad weather and the cold it was a perfect little moment in the ocean. It’s things like this that almost no one else gets to experience that continues to draw me back to the sea.

On the swim back down the other side of the pier the rain picked up for a while. I let the rhythm of the rain distract me from any negative thoughts about what else might be out for a swim today. Niel paused briefly at the buoy line to make sure we were both on pace and then we swam it the rest of the way in. I tried to body surf a couple waves with my camera but it didn’t really work out that way. Oh well, it was fun trying :)

Back on the beach we pretty much split in different directions once we gathered up our gear. It wasn’t exactly a hang out on the beach kind of day with the rain and total lack of sunshine. I’m really glad I got in today. I feel better about some of the things that have gone down this week… the rain and salt water sort of washed a lot of it away.

5 Responses to “Washing Away Bad News with Rain and Salt Water”

  1. patty says:

    I’ve been reflecting on both of these deaths over the past few days. I can’t imagine the grief these families are facing after losing robust athletes in their prime.

  2. IronMike says:

    Funny how it has helped wash the sadness away. I swam in the same water as my 5K on Sunday and Monday…an easy 2000 each day, but it was nice to get the taste of salt water in my mouth again. I’m really gonna miss the open water. Til next year that is!

  3. Sheila says:

    I went for my last ocean practice swim of the year this past Sunday. At Venice Beach in L.A. Warmest ocean swim for me this year at 64F. Oh, and we wimpy triathletes wear wetsuits anyhow. I am so much going to miss my ocean swims. They are the best part of the week. Makes everything better. I will be swimming in the Catalina Triathlon on Nov. 6th, my last triathlon race of the year.

    I am curious, Rob, about the camera you use to get pictures and videos during your swims plus how it is carried during the swim. Or is there a kayaker along on your swim? So far (this is only my 2nd year ocean swimming) I’m just glad to get myself out there and do my swim. Having to carry along a camera is not something I’ve thought about dealing with, but I love that you have pictures for posts like this.

  4. Rob D says:

    Patty – I can’t even imagine what they’re going though. And the whole thing with Fran is awful… as more information comes out about the lapses in safety at this event the worse it gets.

    Mike – I’m of the belief that the ocean solves more problems than it causes :) Too bad your season is pretty much shut down thanks to being in the magical land of Russia for the winter. Good news is spring isn’t that far away!

    Sheila – The vast majority of the pictures taken on the blog in the ocean are by me at an arms length… unless you can see both of my arms it’s safe to assume I took it :) Since I’m normally not in a wetsuit I just tuck my camera in my swimsuit and go. If I’m in a wetsuit I’ll take a string and tie it to my suit zipper and tuck the camera down the front of my wetsuit when not in use.

    By the way your ocean season doesn’t have to end! We try to go out at least once a week all year up here although sometimes the weather shuts that down. If people will swim with you, November and December turn out some pretty beautiful days in the ocean!

  5. Sheila says:

    Have to agree with Rob about the more we hear about lack of safety regarding the Fran Crippen tragedy, the worse it gets. :(
    Thanks for the tips about the camera. Maybe I will ask for a waterproof camera for my birthday. Hmmm. Yeah, I won’t probably find anyone to go ocean swimming with me Dec-Feb. I swim with L.A. TriClub and it’s mostly off-season now, so most of the regular ocean swim practices shut down until spring. And I live a long way from the beach (45 min drive about) so I’m actually looking forward to not driving there so much and getting to sleep more. Hehe. I mean, there’s always plusses to any situation.