I played with the idea all week, but upon waking up this morning I decided that yes in fact I wanted to drive to Monterey and back just to go swim and mess around! We’ve been having a gorgeous weekend on the Central Coast, but we have bad weather coming so I figured I’d take full advantage of the situation. I was on the road around 7:30 and in Pacific Grove around 10. On top of all the people in town for the Pebble Beach golf tournament, there was a big run of some sort that was centered around Lovers Point which was our meet up spot. I ended up having to park along the road a little ways away from the beach. The fun part of parking along a busy street was towel changing along the side of my truck hoping the wind from a passing car didn’t blow my towel up or off mid-change!
Since I was super early I walked around a little and took in the sights. It was so ridiculously beautiful today. None of the classic Monterey Fog… just sunshine, rugged coastline and blue water. There was a healthy swell pushing in to the cove area at Lovers Point and a sharp perfectly shaped break moving left to right that some boogie boarders were really taking advantage of. Those dudes were shredding that wave over and over again… they were good! Normally you associate boogie boards with kids and tourists, but these guys were legit and it’s a good thing they were because if they messed up there were some pretty gnarly rocks waiting to mess their whole day up!
Around 11 I ran into Chris who I swam with the last time I was in town and eventually John and Erica joined us. We chatted in the parking lot (by this time you could park in the lot again) while everyone got suited up. I was the lone non-wetsuiter today, but John’s suit was only 1mm and recommended for usage in 68-74 degree water so I’m not sure how much help it really gave him in what was reported to be 52 degree water! As a precautionary maneuver I put on a rash guard today. Last time I swam with these guys tens of thousands of giant jellyfish joined us and I really didn’t want to be out there bare chested again. I was assured that the jellies were gone, but I deemed it best to take the rash guard just in case because at this point leaving it on shore would almost guarantee I’d find the one jellyfish left in the bay :)
Down on the actual beach I walked in and got my feet wet, definitely cold. Not sure I’d go as low as 52 though… maybe it was just all the direct sunshine making me think things were hotter than they were though. While I was busy trying to ease myself in John took off like a shot. He’s an all-at-once acclimator… a skill I’m yet to learn. Erica followed right after while me and Chris contemplated the ocean just a little longer. Chris tossed himself in… I took two more steps in then took chase.
Our target was the same buoy we swam to the last time I was there which is about half a mile off shore. From the beach we passed through a fair amount of kelp, but nothing compared to what I’ve swam in there before. I wasn’t fast enough to hang with Chris but he was always within sight and after a little while we started to catch up to John.
About half way out the guys stopped so I stopped to see what was up. We had come up on a whole bunch of otters! I saw maybe 5 or so, not sure how many were actually in the area though. It was kinda funny, they were basically looking at us the same way we were looking at them. These otters seemed largely indifferent to people, probably because a lot of scuba divers, kayakers, etc use this patch of ocean… but they probably don’t see too many swimmers!
From here we went back to the task of finding the yellow wave buoy. I sighted off of John’s cap for a while to keep the right line and after a little while I finally caught sight of the buoy. The sightings were limited in duration and few and far between because the ocean was started to get agitated. The chop was picking up and making everything a little more interesting. It was pushing in from my left side and occasionally breaking over my head and landing in my mouth… ewwww…
Everyone regrouped at the wave buoy and much to my excitement we didn’t have to keep our feet way up to avoid jellyfish this time! I could relax and check the view… with clear skies it was amazing out there. You could see everything!
We took some pictures and then made a plan for our return swim. The idea was to cut in a little differently to try and break out of the chop, and then turn it back on line towards the beach. Being not a local I continued my plan of using swim caps as navigational devices. I followed Erica’s bright neon green for about a quarter mile. Her line was moving way to close to the rocky coast for my comfort and I could see the beach now so I decided to forge my own path. As we neared the last stretch of the swim I took a breath to the left to see where Erica was and she was scary close to a rock outcropping surrounded in white water… I asked her later if she meant to swim that far over and turns out it definitely wasn’t the plan. After one of those swells pushed her a little too close she ended up swimming all the way to my right side and finishing the swim from over there.
I dodged a couple scuba divers en route to the beach and walked up on shore. Chris was already there and Erica came out about the same time as me. She was shivering pretty hard so the two of them ran up to the parking lot to heat her up and I waited a minute for John to swim up on the beach.
All told our swim was just short of 2 km and we were in the water for about 36 minutes. I felt pretty good afterwards, not really cold at all. I almost wanted to get back in and dive around with my camera to take pictures amongst the kelp… almost… the thought of how cold that deeper water was is a pretty healthy deterrent :)
After our swim I went to lunch downtown with Chris and got to talk crazy person endurance sports for a while. He’s more focused on running, but the dude is a strong swimmer and could probably take on a pretty serious open water event if he felt the urge.
From lunch I went back across town to the Monterey Aquarium. I love that place. February is off season for them and all the hotel rooms in town were full of golf fans so the crowd in the aquarium was actually light for a weekend. I spent time watching the giant octopus do his thing, and hung out in front of some of the big habitat exhibits like the kelp forest and just watched the fish go about their business. It’s always amazing to me to thing of how much life is really bustling beneath me when I swimming that I just never get to see… it also kinda scares me when the 7 gill shark sneaks right up on me as I’m staring at a Garibaldi or something like that. Hooray for giant sheets of plexiglass right?
As something a little different I took a guided behind the scenes tour in the late afternoon. This was definitely money well spent. I got to see parts of the aquarium I’ve never seen before and poke around in all kinds of places the public never sees. My favorite part was getting to check out one of the big habitat exhibits from above.
Once I was done at the aquarium I grabbed dinner and began to contemplate my escape from Monterey. I didn’t really want to go though. Lucky for me my post swim absentmindedness had led to my flip flops being left behind on the side of the road in Pacific Grove after changing out of my swimsuit which was an excellent excuse to not leave just yet. I drove down to PG and amazingly they were right there on the side of the road where I had forgotten them, score! This was really good news because I basically only wear flip flops unless there’s some kind of special occasion going on that requires actual shoes.
Since I was already down there… I hung out around Lovers Point until the sun went down. This also turned out to be a strong tactical decision. It gave all the golf fans a time to sit in traffic without me while they tried to get out of town. By the time I hit the road it was smooth sailing all the way home.
I’m not sure when my next Monterey adventure will be, but I hope it’s soon. Something about that bay really speaks to me. A Monterey Bay crossing is pretty much at the top of my list of absurd swims that I want to attempt in my lifetime, trips like this just make my desire to do it even worse! Someday… anybody want to sponsor a trans-Monterey Bay swim? Eh?