Yesterday I went to visit my open water friends the Kelp Krawlers in Monterey Bay. They’re real similar to the Avila Dolphins in that they get together and swim in a relaxed format on Sundays. Where they’re different is that they’ve gotten way bigger than us! According to their facebook page we had 27 people in the water, that’s enormous for a February swim in water this cold!
I drove up that morning and highway 101 was a ghost town, I didn’t touch the gas or break from Paso Robles all the way to Salinas! I was an hour early to the beach and spent some time checking out the surf and watching a local bodyboarder catch a few waves. Lovers Point can have some really nice waves when the swell is pushing the right way, but it freaks me out a little bit because the bottom is so rocky. It was highly educational to see how a local gets in the water, paddles out, and changes position as the tide changes. While I was watching I ran into my buddy Chris V out for a jog with his dog before our swim. After catching up with him we moved towards the parking lot to gear up for the main event.
Up in the parking lot swimmers started to filter in… lots of them! Goggles and wetsuits were everywhere. As an added bonus we had a gang of support paddlers as well. I’m very jealous of the kayakers and SUPers that come out and support the Kelp Krawler swims… I wonder if we can find any interested people in Avila, hmmm… Once it was go time Chris gave a quick talk to the group about how the swim works before we marched on down to the water.
The water was pretty frosty, after baking in the sun before the swim the difference in temperature was pretty brutal at first. The buoy we swam too way off shore was running 52-53 but there was a very noticeable drop once you swam into the little cove at the beach. As one of only 2 skin swimmers it took me a little bit to get acclimated and started. John, the other wetsuitless adventurer, always takes off like a shot once he hits the water. I don’t know he manages to submerge and go so fast… my body would rather suffer in stages as I get in :)
For this swim I broke out my Frankenfish GoPro swim filming contraption I’ve been working on. I “perfected” it across the last week in the pool and today would be it’s first trip into the ocean. I’ll do a more detail post on Frankenfish later this week, but basically he’s a weighted kickboard with GoPro mounts, fins, and a tether attached to a belt around my waist that I can tow while swimming and take pictures and video handsfree. It got a lot of looks and questions as I lugged it around. Once people figured out what it was for they dug it. I set it to take a picture every 5 seconds on the swim out to the buoy and figured I’d run video on the way back.
On the swim out of the cove I checked on Frankenfish quite a bit just to make sure he was upright and still attached to me. The water was a little rough on Sunday and I’d only swam with it in the pool to this point so I wasn’t sure how it’d react. I was very pleased to see that it never flipped over and the only time the camera dipped below the water was when some swell or chop washed across the front of it. I was hoping to run it with the GoPro on the mount on the bottom of the board at some point and see what creatures it might catch on film, but the water was a little too cloudy. Oftentimes you have visibility for days out there but this weekend things were a little stirred up and you could see maybe 10ish feet though the water. Although I didn’t see much life one guy said he spotted a jellyfish the size of his head which is always exciting… as long as it doesn’t hit you!
As we swam further out into the ocean I switched from sighting off of swim caps to SUPers. The Kelp Krawlers usually swim to a yellow ball buoy that’s pretty hard to see until you’re right up on it. I think most of them swim there on memory. Having paddleboarders in the mix made finding the buoy way easier… I really need to recruit some locals to do that… I met up with the “A” group at the buoy and we made sure everyone gave it a kiss that needed to (you have to kiss the buoy the first time you swim to it). I’ve been there a few times but it got a kiss anyways, it’s a good looking buoy… haha :)
On the swim back to the beach I ran video on the GoPro instead of photos. The water was a little rougher on the way back and I could feel Frankenfish tugging more as the waves pushed it fore and aft. As I plodded along I swam through the second wave of swimmers en route to the buoy. Since the group is so big right now it’s split into two groups based on speed. I got some cool shots of swimmers floating past me on my way in that are in the video I pieced together from my outing. I figured you guys don’t want to watch 10 minutes of the back of my head so I cut is down to about two and a half minutes of excitement for your viewing pleasure…
As I swam back into the kelp I stopped to dive a little bit and explore the bottom. The tether on my board is long enough that I can loop it around to the front of me and use it like a regular kickboard. I did get a little tangled up in the process however. When I walked out of the water at the end of the swim I had strands of kelp wrapped up in my belt and hanging down to my knees, it was pretty funny looking. I hung out on the beach for a few minutes talking with the other swimmers and then decided to hop back in the water and take a few more pictures while I was still wet and cold.
After I dried off and changed I hung out in the parking lot and partook in some baked goods before departing for the Aquarium. I spent a few hours checking out the exhibits and was particularly excited to see the Open Sea tank open again. I got to spend some quality time with my favorites the Mola Mola and the octopus while everyone else was deeply enthralled in the Super Bowl. The Aquarium’s traffic was pretty light, just me and a bunch of foreign tourists that were blissfully unaware that this is a pseudo American TV holiday.
I really like swimming Monterey with the Kelp Krawlers, it’s such a beautiful spot full of a lot of fun people, hopefully I can find my way up again some time soon!