I’m not usually real big on my own birthday BUT it is an excellent excuse to talk people into helping you out with a swim :) A couple weeks ago I pitched the idea of a 4 hour swim on our Central Coast Open Water group and got some positive reactions so I started to plot it out in earnest.  I figured we’d keep it within our typical swim routes and I’d try and stack swimmers through out the 4 hours so I’d always have some company. I ended up lucking out and talking my friend Beth into kayaking the whole time with me so that took a lot of pressure of the buddy swimmer logistics. I could just swim and people could pop in and out at will.

quick class in the art of GoPro

On Sunday morning I got up early and packed up for  a long swim that wasn’t going to actually go anywhere. I packed a small mesh bag for keeping some of my stuff on the kayak but I also brought my Swim Safety Device to dock on a buoy to keep back up Gatorade in. The lube of the day was Bag Balm and it did a good job for me as usual. I met Beth in Avila around 8:30 and we worked on getting the kayak I borrowed from Danilu off my truck’s rack and down to the beach. From there I moved my truck to a real spot ( I originally grabbed a loading zone spot) and then worked on getting prepped for the swim. As I was starting to strip down and get to greasing up my friend Lynne came around the corner. I was very stoked to see her, it’d been a while since she’s been to the ocean with us for a swim. As we were chatting and she was getting in her wetsuit Byron came down the staircase on the other side, score! We’d start the swim 3 swimmers deep, way more fun that way.

When everyone was suited up we walked to the water’s edge and started looking for a window in the surf to sneak Beth in. Although it was absolutely placid at 8:30 when we got there the surf was picking up a bit. Some of the set waves were maybe waist high which isn’t huge but it also isn’t that great if you’re trying to stay dry while getting out past the breakers in a kayak! After one false start we found our moment and Byron gave Beth a big push into the water. We yelled at her to paddle PADDLE PADDLE! up and over a few swells until she was safely outside (and a little wet on the bottom). Now to get us in… that’s a little harder… at least for me. Good news was the water temp was cold but not too crazy. I guessed 53, Niel measured 54 later in the morning. The thing was the water was very patchy. I’d say we ranged anywhere from 51 to 54, it just sort of depended where you were and if you happened to find an upwelling or cold current.


We set out together on the classic triangle course. At the first buoy I removed my SSD and attached the waist belt to the buoy, it was full of my back up sports drink in case I burned through the couple bottles currently in the kayak. With that taken care of we got down to business. Typically Byron is much faster than me but he slowed it down quite a bit so we could stick together, Lynne stayed right behind us the whole way around. Like our usual group swims we took short breaks at the corners to regroup. On this first round I was also pointing out how the next leg would work for Beth since this was her first Avila outing that was actually in the water.

At the end of lap number one Lynne checked out but Byron decided to hang on for one more loop. I was a little worried I’d freeze him out on this second lap between him being a skinny guy, having a fast but thin wetsuit, and him slowing down to a similar pace to me. Out at the tip of the pier we saw the beginnings of a yacht club event start to come together… crap… we’ve been out in a regatta before and it’s not really all that great for swimmers. I was hoping the timing would work alright and I’d spend the rest of the day sneaking in and out of that corner of their course without causing any trouble. When we crossed under the pier for the second time to end lap number two I bid Byron farewell as he went in search of dryer, warmer places.

Lap 3 turned out to be a solo endeavor with just Beth and I rounding the buoys. I dropped the breaks at the turns and did my usual race turns around the buoys. I like to going in tight alongside the buoy then turn over onto my back for a stroke and then back to my stomach turning the corner the whole time. It’s a pretty fast and efficient way to swim around something.

As we came through the pier for lap number 4 there were a few heads bobbing around at the buoy. Niel, Ed and Camber were waiting for me to start the next lap. I stopped to feed and chat for a moment (at this point I was feeding every lap). Once I was ready we set things back in motion. At the end of the buoy line Camber decided she was going to just stick to the buoy line since she’s been out of the water for a while. Niel and I let Ed get a big head start on the pier and then chased him down. The yacht club action was starting to thicken up and he was taking a wide line so I had Beth chase him down in the kayak and corral him back towards our much tighter than usual line to the pier. At the corner of the pier (we were skirting really closely to it, sub 3 meters) there was an amazing cold spot, really got your attention! At this point there was a crowd on the pier and people were asking questions and watching us swim. Beth ended up doing double duty as paddler and PR agent explaining what was going on to spectators on the pier, passing kayakers, boaters and a couple paddleboarding lifeguards.

At the end of lap 4 everyone split. Ed was done and Niel wasn’t doing so well with the cold so that gave Beth and I a chance to do another solo lap. There were 2 swimmers out in front of us but I wasn’t sure who they were. We caught them at the far buoy and it turned out to be Yvonne and Sylvia. We hung out for a little bit and chatted at the buoy. They ultimately went on to swim the buoy line back to the other end as I turned for the pier. On this lap I took a break at the tip of the pier for a bonus feeding, I didn’t take enough at the first buoy and was starting to feel tight up in my shoulders. Over at the creek buoy I met up with Yvonne and Sylvia one more time and had another social moment. They were real curious about the catamaran docked inside the triangle and were going to do a swim by, apparently they got invited up on the boat for a tour! How cool is that?!?

Lap 6 I had Duke waiting for me at the buoy. He was right on time, I needed someone else to drag me along a bit. I was really tightening up on my left side. Plus at about this distance I start to bonk for a little while. I typically bounce back but there’s a period of like a mile or so where I just drag ass as my body prepares the next wind. I must have been really slow because Duke did a lot of backstroking, at least he never broke into a breaststroke :) While we were out Danilu joined us as well on her new super suave Standup Paddleboard from Central Coast Standup in Morro Bay. According to Beth we were picking up the pace but I wasn’t feeling it. The arms were getting heavy. It was good to know I can still just pull a long swim out of my ass without being properly trained, but apparently in my new older age I was just going to pay for it a little more than usual, haha. Our turns became very social and drawn out except for the tip of the pier. We had to race around it to avoid incoming boat action. The yacht club folks were starting to get a little less than excited about our presence. Around this time it was decided there’d be no more full laps, we’d hold to the buoy line were getting run over was less likely.

Mid way down the buoy line from the creek we were joined by one last swimmer, my buddy Dave VM. He came out in just a suit and goggles, it was nice to have some skin swimmer company! He was pretty cold though and after a few handshakes he took off quickly for the pier so we worked on swimming after him. Once we shot the pier and got to the first buoy on the other side he had warmed up and was a little more capable of just floating around and shooting the shit with us. We decided that we’d wrap things up with a swim to the end of the buoy line and then turn it around, swim towards the pier and then in. At the last buoy before swimming to the beach I gathered up my SSD and we just floated in the water a few more minutes soaking in the sun and cold water. This was a pretty perfect way for me to burn a day.

Back on the beach I checked the GPS. Over 6 miles but just barely short of 10k. I was in the water for about 3:45 minutes, not quite the 4 hours I planned but close enough I didn’t really care. I came out feeling good and had no shakes or shivers. I hung out with the rest of the crew up on the beach for a while and enjoyed the sunshine, I never even put my sweatshirt on. It was great.

Big thank yous to everyone that swam with me on Sunday and a huge thank you to Beth for paddling! It made it so much nicer to have an escort on the water, especially with the out of the ordinary boat traffic. I’m hoping we can do more of these through the summer. I figure if I do enough 4 hour and greater swims I might just end up in shape again some day :)


2 Responses to “31st Birthday Swim”

  1. Josh N says:

    Happy Birthday Dude!
    Looks like a great way to celebrate and get the summer swimming rolling!

  2. Beth Barnes says:

    Just saw this, Rob. One thing is for sure, I need to learn how to use your camera a bit better AND paddle at the same time!