After living on the Central Coast for about 15 years I just now swam in Lake Lopez for the first time. Although it’s inside of my town of Arroyo Grande it’s about 12 miles away from my house out into the hills and it’s the kind of place you don’t end up unless you’re going there on purpose… plus it costs $9 to get a car in there now. My buddy Jason and I made our way out there for our second attempt to swim the lake. Last time we tried this we were thwarted by duck poo and signs that didn’t take to kindly to human contact with the water. This time we were greeted by a better smelling lake and some fairly warm water… if I had to guess I’d say 67-68.


if this is the shittiest place in town to go swimming I guess my life isn’t so bad :)


After getting our swim stuff together we walked down to the edge of the lake and noticed it was a lot further up than it was last time around. Turns out the Lake is at about 95% capacity (it’s a water source for the cities below so they keep track of that kind of thing). You can really seen the difference in the GPS Map of the swim… it looks like I started tracking on land, but that start point was in about a meter of water.

We had a loose plan getting in of swimming towards a buoy that Jason could see but I couldn’t that marcated the edge of the No Wake zone, and from there we’d figure something out. It took me a little while to get comfortable swimming in the lake. The fresh water always throws me off… it feels weird, plus there was a really tight and persistent wind chop. Also odd was being in open water that warm locally, I missed out on the analgesic effect that my shoulders enjoy so much in really cold ocean water.

The buoy was about a half a mile out and I never really saw it until we actually got there. After hanging out for a while speculating at how far we had swum to get to that point we worked on picking our next leg. We decided to turn right and swim that way for a while before turning back to shore making a big triangle. On the way out that chop just kept coming. It wasn’t even that windy, but the way the lake is set up I don’t think it takes much to really get the water moving.

Eventually we stopped figuring we’d gone far enough in our latest direction and tried to figure out the angle to get back home. We probably spent 5 minutes just shooting the breeze out there before actually taking off though. The water was nice and warm so it wasn’t a big deal to just float without purpose for that long.

We aimed for a big white water tank up on the hills behind where we started and made sure to swim wide of a little land outcropping that was to our left. I stopped about 100m short of the finish to turn off my GPS. It was getting mad at me because it was low on batteries so I figured it was best to stop it and turn it off now before it just crashed while I was en route somewhere. Adding in that last leg we ended up swimming 2k but it felt like 2.5 to both of us… I guess that chop was more serious than we realized!

Although it’s a drag to pay so much money just to drive into the park and a lake doesn’t match up the sea in terms of venue, this is still a pretty good training spot. I think we’ll have to do this more often. The nice thing is we don’t have to worry about sharks and things like that… we do however have to worry about assholes who happen to have motorized watercraft. While we were leaving some tool on a jetski was doing donuts inside the wake free zone… great :/ Jason and I talked about ideas for some longer swims in the lake that we think would be fun. I think we’ll need to bring a kayak or rent a boat for them though just to defend against boaters. Now to figure out how much an annual pass costs…

4 Responses to “Feeling Out Lake Lopez”

  1. Katie says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m a lake swimmer, and when the chop beats me up, I feel like a big giant wimp compared to ocean swimmers like yourself. It’s encouraging to read that you thought it was a little tough.
    p.s. A pox on those jetskiers!!! Usually the motorized watercraft obey the no wake zones pretty well in the Arizona lakes. Scary.

  2. Rob D says:

    yeah lakes might not have big swells and currents, but they’re pretty good at wind chop… especially when surrounded by mountains!

    agreed on jetskiers… jetskis are really effective safety tools in the right hands, death machines in the wrong ones

  3. Danilu says:

    Hey Rob any time you guys want to swim let me know, I’ll take my kayak and follow you guys! Sounds like fun…let’s do it on a warm day!

  4. Rob D says:

    awesome… we need to do a swim to the dam and back one of these days :)