The waters of Avila Beach have been totally alive recently. We had whales in the bay during our Sunday swim, and again this Wednesday night. My friend Cliff from Colorado, who I’ve done some training swims with and crewed a Catalina Channel swim for, told me that the whales came all the way to the buoy line in the hour before I got to the beach! As our group amassed on the beach we watched whales out along lines we regularly swim burst out of the sea face first most like to catch big mouthfuls of bait fish. I couldn’t believe they were so nonchalantly eating dinner right there in front of all these people.
Our swim pod ended up being just me, Niel and Cliff. Cliff is on vacation and just completed a Lake Tahoe traversement so this was just a fun cool down swim for him. He rocked goggles and board shorts as opposed to breaking out the speedo. As a bonus Allison had the day off and came out to paddle along with us in her kayak. Niel helped her get launched while I talked with Dave VM on the beach… he’s still in rest mode post Catalina swim, he just wanted to hit the beach and say hi to Cliff while he was in town.
In the surf line we negotiated our route. We’d swim even with the buoy line then swim under the pier and do the right side of the triangle. Once we got to the tip of the pier we’d reassess the situation and decide where to go once we got there. The water was 59 degrees and pretty comfy. It was also extremely murky. We had some of the worst visibility I’ve seen in a while.
It was nice getting out and swimming with Cliff. Overall he’s faster than I am but we can settle into a nice stroke for stroke pace with each other while training. We cruised along pretty close on the way to the creek buoy and then really locked it in on the way to the tip of the pier. Allison was in between us with the kayak but whenever she’d fall back just enough for us to see each other we’d be right on line.
Out at the tip of the pier we took a break and could see our resident whales another 200m out breaking the surface to catch a breath. It’s very cool and a little unnerving to share the water with school bus sized marine mammals! We decided to swim in on the other side of the pier but swing a little wide to one of the buoys to avoid any lines out from the fishermen. We took a short regroup break at the buoy line and then swam it in towards the beach.
I stopped and waited for a wave to surf in. As I floated into the beach I saw Beth had shown up to say hi. She took some pics of Cliff and I in the water and then I ran out for one more ride. The surf was just big enough to be fun so I ran up the beach to get my fins and ride a few more. I spent maybe 15 minutes playing in the waves. It felt good.
When I came back up on the beach Cliff and his family were getting ready to split until… thousands and thousands of birds started to swirl into the area between fossil point and the Avila pier. They had locked on to a ball of bait fish and were pinning them against the beach to make their fishing easier. Then the carnage began… total death from above… a constant stream of birds crashed into the water to catch their dinners. Noticing that the edge of this mess was all the way inside the surf line we realized that the birds may be forcing fish onto the beach and we wanted to see what they were. Dave VM and I were the first one’s down there and we could feel fish flip past our ankles as we stood in about an inch of water. Niel caught one on the sand and brought it over to us. For a while the sardines were easy to just pluck up from the sand. We caught a few, for science and whatnot, and threw them back into the water. Within 10-15 minutes the commotion subsided and birds started to stream out. As I walked back to my beach chair I heard a guy on his cell phone tell somebody “dude you’re missing the gnarliest shit down here in Avila right now.” Gnarliest shit indeed my good man :)