I went on a mini adventure to Santa Cruz yesterday to get in some night swimming with some of my teammates for the Monterey Bay Relay Crossing that’s coming up on the 21st. Since I hadn’t actually met anyone on the team in person before and I don’t have much experience swimming in the dark I figured it was worth all the driving, and honestly I don’t need much of an excuse to go swimming with new people :) I worked until about 11 and then drove to Santa Maria to get in a 2850 yard pool workout and eat lunch. From there I dropped by my house to reload my swim bag and set a course for Santa Cruz. The drive is a little more than 3 hours as long as there’s no traffic, luckily the traffic I encountered was minimal and I made it to town in time to have dinner with James and Faye who are both on the relay.
After dinner we drove down to Cowell’s Beach which is where the Santa Cruz Roughwater Swim finishes. We hung out in the parking lot and got ready as our numbers expanded. I think ultimately we ended up with around 7 swimmers and 5 paddlers. The get ready process was kind of interesting, it involved lots of glow sticks and duct tape. I ended up with one taped to my forearm and one taped to my noggin. I also had an led light on the back of my head and my GPS… I don’t think I’ve ever attached so much crap to my head before for a swim! Once we were good to go I helped James carry the kayak down to the water and then walked out in the water a little bit to get a feel for how cold it was. It felt really nice to me… maybe 55ish… there isn’t a NOAA buoy in the area, but Surfline is running 52 for that beach right now so who knows?
As we all started to get in the sun was gone but there was still some residual light back lighting the city behind us. We swam straight out to a buoy part way down the wharf but short of the boats that were moored out there. Since I couldn’t see the buoy from the beach I just followed glow sticks, but the glow sticks I was following missed by a little bit to the right so we made a little turn partway down to get back on track and hit our regrouping point.
From here we picked a house up on the cliffs to swim towards and proceeded to do a couple laps towards it and then back to the buoy. It got darker and darker as we went along and I felt really comfortable the whole time. I thought I’d be a little more skeeved out by it, but I really didn’t mind the dark because as long as I could see someone else’s light in my peripheral vision I knew I was ok. At first I hung towards the back but once I sort of had my bearings for where things were I sped it up a little bit. My stroke actually feels pretty good in the dark, I think it’s because it takes away my urge to sight frequently since there’s nothing to see. James had talked to me about this a couple days ago on the phone and I totally felt exactly what he was talking about.
Eventually we had to turn it back in towards shore. We set the tall part of the hotel on the beach as our finish point and got going. I had some issues swimming in because my goggles kept leaking and fogging up. When ever I’d try to sight I’d just get a big blur of blotted light from the water in my goggles. I tried swimming without them for a bit to see if that helped but I still couldn’t really see. I made it back to the beach fine, but I really need to restock on goggles so this doesn’t happen during our relay.
After the swim we walked back up the beach to get changed and warmed up. I ended up staying afterwards to hang out at a wine bar on the Wharf with James and talk crazy person adventure swims for a while. I figured no matter what I was going to get home late, I might as well make the trip worth it and stay a little longer :) Ultimately I got home somewhere between 2 and 3 in the morning and was crashed out by about 3:30am only to be up again at 6:30am for work… whooo tired! There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be going to bed directly after my Wednesday night Avila Beach swim!
I’m really stoked I managed to go do this. It was very cool to meet everybody in advance of spending like 15 hours on a boat with them, and to go swim in the dark. Now that I’ve seen how they go about it it’s time to start figuring out how we might do the same thing down here in Avila… I think the key will be finding paddlers… and buying big boxes of glow sticks :)