I’ve had my eyes on Elmer Ross Beach (Shelter Cove) in Shell Beach for a while and put it up as a possible swim spot back in March. I made multiple recon trips in spring when the water was too rough to swim so I could scout out rocks and other hazards. Niel made a couple trips out with me as well and now that it’s summer and the surf is mellowing out we wanted to give it a go. The plan was to meet around high tide at Dinosaur Caves Park and check out the water and make a route decision from there. One option was an out and back from the cove to explore that area, the other option was a point to point swim from Margo Dodd Park with Allison running ground support from one beach to the other.

the route as we swam it

We met Niel in the Dinosaur Cave parking lot and he was a little leery of the water near shore at our target beach. It looked good further out but the 100m nearest the coast was a suspicious color. We went for a walk to the stairs at Margo Dodd to see if it was the same there and for me to point out the route I had in mind for swimming out of that beach since Niel hadn’t been to it with me before with thoughts of swimming in his head. It had a little funk as well but not too bad. We decided to do a point to point from one beach to the other. Step one in getting that in motion was going back to the parking lot to suit up just to walk back to the beach again.

entering the mine field

Once we were all together and had walked back to the staircase at Margo Dodd we descended to the water. I almost totally ate it stepping from the last stair onto the first rock of the beach… barely caught myself! Niel walked through with no issues and then Allison totally took a tumble. We both had the same brand of flip flops on and both slipped… coincidence? I smell a conspiracy :p After making sure we didn’t break our ground support person we capped and goggled up and gave her our stuff to take to the finishing beach. From there we started to wade into the surprisingly “warm” ocean. It was probably mid upper 50′s which is really nice for us. Niel found a good smooth route into the water, I found a bunch of submerged boulders… kind of foreshadowing the theme of my day. We debated our route out through the rocks. We decided to veer right towards one cluster of rocks and then scout out the rocks on the left hand side once we were out there to determine how we’d skirt around them.

debating our line

The swim out was kelpy and the views rather dramatic. The rock formations are much cooler looking from in the water. We stopped frequently to assess the situation and look for any trouble. As we neared the edge of the rocks surrounding our launch beach we renegotiated our line a bit. We needed to go a little further out to avoid a low line of rocks to our left and then we had to decide whether to shoot a gap between two sets of rocks or go all the way outside of the far set. There was a small fishing boat working the outer rocks so we decided to swim between the rock outcroppings which were maybe 25-35m apart with small waves barely breaking over the top of them.

The swim between the rows of rocks was a little bouncy but manageable. I was having fun. We were still hitting patches of kelp but I was making assumptions that it was tall, deep rooted Monterey kelp. Well… at least one patch wasn’t. I managed to find a barely submerged chunk of rocky goodness, with my rib cage. A small swell picked me up and dropped me right on it. Ouch. The funny thing was I was looking at this patch of plant matter in front of me thinking something about it looked funny… turns out I was right, the wheels in my brain just weren’t turning fast enough.

hey cool a rock! that looks kind of close...

yup... little too close... ow

After a few choice words for my inanimate object friend and a quick poke with my fingers to make sure I didn’t break anything or start bleeding all over I set back to the swim. We were making our way out into clear soft blue open ocean water. It was beautiful. As we swam I spotted a small pod of Dolphins coming right at us. I stopped Niel so he could see too. The dolphins didn’t hang out long but we got to see them take a few more breathes on their way north up the coast. I tried to get some dolphin pictures but those guys are elusive photographically.

We took a break straight out from the large tall rock with a big flat surface on top of it that’s sort of a mid point to our swim. It has cool caves underneath it that I never really noticed from years of looking at it from above. Part of me wonders if you could swim the caves, the other part is reasonably certain I’d die doing so… I have a feeling I’ll find out one of these days. As we floated out there we decided how to proceed with our approach to Elmer Ross Beach. We decided to swim further out in a big arc and then bring it straight in. The cove is fairly rocky on each side but there’s a clean channel down the middle. It’s a good thing we already knew this because it was very hard to see any of that from our position out in the ocean.

Niel and I swam largely shoulder to shoulder out away from the coast and then slowly turned in. Part way down we stopped to reassess our line and make sure we were on point. We could see the big concrete retaining wall on the beach along with a whole bunch of kayaks that parked there temporarily as part of a kayak tour they were doing. We continued on with our line and swam towards the beach and the kelp. We treaded carefully through the kelp so as to not relive my rock run in. The kelp got extremely thick for a bit, Niel wanted to try and swim off to the right and skirt it but there’s a lot of jagged rock action over there so I preferred to just crawl over it.

Once we landed on the beach Allison was waiting for us with towels and flip flops. Niel and I finished the swim stoked and a little beat up. I had scuff marks down my ribs and he had a mystery cut on his ankle, but we were both ready to get out and do this again. Next time around I think we may start at this beach and then swim south and see what’s going on that way. I’m not sure how often this swim is going to land in the rotation, it’s somewhat condition dependent (surf/tide/etc) and not beginner friendly like Avila so it’s not for everybody.

2 Responses to “Shell Beach Test Swim – Margo Dodd to Elmer Ross”

  1. Evan says:

    Great story! Glad you didn’t hurt yourself any worse.

  2. Rob D says:

    thanks dude… definitely the first time I’ve been punched by the ocean… I was still feeling it on Sunday’s swim, but hopefully today I’m back to normal in the pool