Yesterday everyone in town was talking about this whole tsunami thing that was a result of a huge earthquake in Japan. I woke up on Friday to find a facebook note from my friend Mike in Russia asking if I’d found high ground… at this point I had no idea what he was talking about but after hitting some online news sites I put it all together. We had a tsunami warning for the coast and the local authorities were taking it pretty seriously. There were evacuations and road & business closures at the beaches. Randomly my friend and kayaker to the stars, Beth Barnes, had been in town visiting Thursday night and woke up Friday morning to the hotel owner telling her she had to split in 30 minutes due to the inbound tsunami. I kept up with what was going on down in Avila via a facebook friend that owns a kayak shop in the port. He was posting video updates that showed the water pull way out exposing parts of the sea floor no one had ever really seen before. When the tsunami wave came back it filled the port back in up to the top of the sea walls but nothing seems to have flowed over the top. Luckily all this went down at low tide which probably minimized the chance for any major damage. Some folks did have boats and docks damaged, but nothing really happened past the beaches.
I had plans to swim today at 2 and according to the local news we were out of the tsunami zone now, but they did urge caution if you were going to be in the water. I met Natalie on the beach and surveyed the scene a bit. Everything looked fine, but the waves were pretty decent sized for Avila. The only way to get much going on at that beach is to have a big south swell, and I guess a tsunami will do that for you! While she got into her wetsuit I ran down to the water to check the water temp real quick. I got about 53.5, but there were a lot of patches on our swim that you could feel the water temp drop quite a bit.
We decided to take on what I like to call the Poly Parallelogram swim, it’s where you start a regular triangle swim but then go all the way to the Poly pier before turning back to the buoy line to finish things up.
On the way into the water we picked up the beginning of a new set of waves, they were pretty decently sized… maybe a couple feet over head. Natalie got going first and I watched her swim up the faces of some big waves while I continued to get acclimated. I set myself in motion between sets but still swam over some big waves en route to breaking. I chased after her and we stopped a little ways past the buoy line. From here we turned towards the point and swam down towards the 2nd buoy.
At the buoy we both mentioned how the ocean felt a little wild today. We were getting pushed in a few different directions which made the swim more exciting. The wind and chop were picking up too but hadn’t become much of an issue yet. On the way to the tip of the Avila Pier however we really started to get a feel for how serious that chop was! It was really moving and hard to predict. We both made it to the pier fine but it took some doing to get there!
While floating off the end of the pier we contemplated the rest of the route… did we really want to swim all the way to the Poly pier headlong into this chop? I was down for it and Natalie decided that she was in too so we went for it. We grinded straight through this stuff… it was a mess. Waves breaking into your face, lots of getting pushed around, this was a real deal ocean swim! I couldn’t even see the cross braces on the pier so I just swam by memory out there hoping to be roughly on point. We kept a pretty decent line but stopped a bit further out from the pier than I usually would. With as much movement in the water as there was you really don’t want to get too close to anything metal and covered in barnacles!
We couldn’t see any of the buoys on the port side of the Avila Pier so we decided to swim towards the middle of one of the hotels and then adjust fire when we got close enough to see a buoy over the chop. Things sped up considerably on this leg of the swim. We had the ocean pushing us along and I tried to kick down the faces of the swells behind us to get as much help as I could out of the motion in the ocean. About half way in I stopped to find the buoy and we ended up turning quite a bit to hit it. The line I started us on would have been good for the old creek buoy but was too wide for the new end of the buoy line. One of our swimmers found the missing creek buoy by the way… it’s crashed up on some rocks somewhere, apparently you can see it from the road to the port.
As we neared the buoys it got really cold. Like 2-3 degree drop colder. I really felt it and Natalie noticed it through her wetsuit as well. Our regrouping at the buoy was real short and then we made our way for the pier and then in. Normally we’d swim around the last buoy closest to the pier to make our turn but it’s been pushed way closer to the pier. Instead we turned early and swam most of the way back in. Once it was shallow enough to stand we hung out for a few minutes body surfing waves. We both got some pretty decent rides in before it was time to get out. We swam about 2.25km and spent 47 minutes in the water. I felt pretty good afterwards, this was just what I needed after a fairly stressful week.
We’ll be back out in the ocean tomorrow and possibly Monday and Wednesday nights now that the time is changing! Brief side note… all my pictures are weird today because I had my camera set to video instead of pictures. I ended up with plenty of odd shots and angles so I pulled some frames out and messed with them in photoshop until they became interesting enough to post :) I promise to set my gear right for tomorrow!