For the life of me I don’t understand the appeal of Black Friday shopping… standing in line with a bunch of deal crazed individuals prone to pepper spraying fellow shoppers in order to buy crap no one really wants anyways? Pass. I’d much rather take advantage of a weekday off of work and get in some playtime outside. I’ve been wanting to try out a longer swim in Lake Lopez all year and a light bulb went off in my head earlier in the month that Black Friday would be the day to do it. I enlisted my friend Danilu as a support paddler and decided on a 5-6k route from Mallard Cove to the Dam. This swim is something a few of us have talked about a bit and I figured I may as well be the test pilot for it before we try taking other folks out that far because once you get about 1/4 mile out there’s no real good exit points from the water, you gotta swim whether you want to or not.

Dani came by my place around 8:20 and we rode out to the lake together. The drive in actually takes us along a lot of the part of the lake we’d be swimming so I tried to observe as much as I could from the road above. The lake was definitely a little textured this morning and I spotted one speed boat and one stationary fishing boat. Not bad. We paid to bring the kayak into the park (we both have annual passes for our vehicles) and drove out to the cove. I was surprised with how many people were at the lake, I figured it’d be a little quieter this time of year. We parked and unloaded and I got ready to swim. I had a small mesh bag with a few supplies in it… back up goggles, gatorade, gu chomps, electronic thermometer and FlipCam. Before we took off I grabbed a preliminary water temp. I took a few readings that ranged from about 56-59, the swim ended up averaging 58 across the whole lake which is a nice happy, comfortable temperature for me.

When we were both ready to go I marched on down to the water’s edge in an obnoxiously pink swimsuit that seemed to amuse the family hanging out right there fishing :) I waded out a ways and adjusted to the temperature a body region at a time. While I was working on that I noticed the wind going the opposite direction of what I’m used to. Instead of barreling in through the hills from the dam it was blowing from shore out into the lake. Odd but ok. The biggest problem this created was that Dani couldn’t maintain a position next to me because of the wind, she ended up staying about 3-5 meters ahead of me which was fine since boat traffic was light.

I felt a little rough while swimming today, my low back remains upset with me and I’m having some tightness in my left shoulder. Good news is it’s a muscular tightness and not a grinding. It took a while to get into a rhythm and at the half mile buoy I stopped for a moment to stretch and make sure Dani was going to be ok paddling back against this wind once we turned around. She was game as always.

As we swam out into unexplored waters we hung to the right side of the lake which turned out to be a good call because all the faster moving boats and jetskis were making moves on the opposite side of the lake. If I can put some space between me and motorboats I’ll take it so we decided that we’d swim back on this side as well once we made the turn. I started swimming a little better out here although the chop coming from behind me was messing up my flow a bit. It was rolling at a really odd frequency that would drop my hips as I tried to catch a breath which lead to a few mouthfuls of less that delicious lake water.

Eventually we rounded a point that opened up a clear view of the dam. I didn’t want to swim all the way up to it since 1. It’s roped and buoyed off, probably for good reasons, and 2. it’s on the fast side of the lake. Instead we swam to the next spur of land that was straight across from it and used that as a turn around point. While we were out there I took a break and drank a bit and ate a few of my Gu Chomps. I made a major tactical error with the Gatorade though. I didn’t read the label and had some goofy low calorie bullshit that did absolutely nothing for me. Lesson learned on that one.

As we started the long swim back we passed through some much calmer waters. Things had started to lay down in this part of the lake because the direction of the wind was shifting and we were sheltered from it by the hills to our left. Dani cut a course more through the middle this time since fishermen were starting to filter in along the shore and we didn’t want to get too close to those guys.

I was pretty glad to feel my GPS buzz at the 4k mark because I knew I was almost done and my left shoulder was really making some noise. The muscles were tweaking out and I was hoping to finish swimming before I was in a position to hurt myself. Around this time is also when we lost the cover of the hills and got the full force of the winds. They were blowing left to right across us and I think that had a lot of impact on the line of our final approach to our finish.

As we neared the finish I started to sight off of Dani’s truck instead of her kayak and within about 10m of shore I put my hand straight down into the mushy lake bottom. Since it was too shallow to swim any more I stumbled the rest of the way in across the overly soft bottom which occasionally would eat up my leg all the way to mid calf, yuck. As I hit dry land I checked my GPS and today’s swim came in at about 5 1/2k, not bad for a Friday morning right? :) The one part that really sucked though was I stunk, bad. The lake water left me a little ripe and even a shower later I can smell that funk on me. After the swim I got changed, we loaded the kayak back in the truck, and we went in search of food down in the Arroyo Grande Village.

It was a good swim and I think this is something that we could turn into a group swim with similarly speeded swimmers and enough kayak or boat support. I know my buddy Jason wants a crack at this one and I’m sure we have a few others that would be interested in giving this route a spin. The next time I feel like doing something interesting in Lake Lopez I think I need to swim end to end or try to swim the whole thing which could get up to 16-17k if you plan it out right… hmmmm :)

2 Responses to “Big Dam Black Friday Swim in Lake Lopez”

  1. Beth Barnes says:

    Gosh, is that Lake Lopez Rob? Everytime I come up there I am so tempted to go have a look but I’m usually heading to Avila or straight into SLO. This looks like a beautiful lake and what a wonderful post. I look forward to the day I can meet Dani, she sounds like quite a gal with an adventurous spirit!

  2. Rob D says:

    yes it is! It gets better the further from the campgrounds you get. I think you’d like Dani, she nuts like us ocean swimmers just in a more terrestrial fashion :) She just ran her first 50 miler this month and is starting to turn her attention towards adventure races instead of triathlons and normal runs