To celebrate Thanksgiving, I (Allison) savored six days in fabulous, sunny San Diego, Calif. Among learning to surf, taking in the mountain views and visiting the world-renowned zoo, I got in some quality open-water swims at La Jolla Cove.
The weather ranged between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day Thanksgiving week. The water was clear and blue; at 61 degrees Fahrenheit, it was a bit chillier. My first swim there took place with two friends, one who seemed somewhat concerned about bumping into “sea creatures.” Fortunately, the only creatures I saw were schools of tiny fish near the shore.
Among my bodily covered friends, I wore the sleeveless wetsuit and appeared a little crazy without sleeves. The next time I swam at LJC, I also looked crazy because I was wearing a wetsuit — the locals I swam with wore merely swimsuits. (Yes, they shivered a little, but I’ll bet they were used to the chilly water.) That day, I joined some folks from the La Jolla Cove Swim Club, a seemingly informal group of swimmers who put on all sorts of open-water events throughout the year, gladly welcomed my friend Sara and I into their swim circle. (Who ever said that Southern hospitality doesn’t extend to the West Coast?) The four of us largely stayed together, and periodically regrouped at buoys.
The buoys were spaced at quarter- and half-mile intervals; from the beach at LJC to the Marine Room (on La Jolla Shores) was either .6 or .7 of a mile. It was a mile to swim from the beach at LJC to the lifeguard tower at La Jolla Shores.
Most of the time, the waves were gentle; the current and waves were noticeably weaker during my morning (9 a.m.) swims. Undoubtedly, the hardest part, for me, was the first time I put my face in the water each day. But after a few minutes of focusing on my stroke and bilateral breating, I reached a peaceful equilibrium and adapted to the cold. My toes did get numb the last day I swam there, after about an hour in the Pacific.
The first day I swam at LJC, I forgot my earplugs, and I was sorry. They made a big difference in keeping my ears warm, but after being kicked in the ear last year during an open-water swim, I rarely swim in open water without them.
One of the biggest differences between East and West Coast open-water swimming was the seaweed — the density, look and feel of it. Perhaps I’ve not done enough East Coast ocean swimming to really know, but in LJC, I would periodically swim into a four-to-five foot clump of rough seaweed, and have to claw my way out. Readers, have you ever had this experience? And the seaweed wasn’t slimy like on the East Coast.
LJC is even more beautiful in real life than the pictures let on — and I’d say the pictures are pretty nice.
Oh, and did I mention the sky was blue and cloudless every day?
A few more things I learned about San Diego and swimming at LJC:
- During one of the swims, a veteran swimmer advised me that when heading for the shore, I wanted to be sure to aim for the middle to avoid being tossed upon the rocks by the ocean’s waves. With a current, this can often be tricky, but I got it.
- Parking was easier to find near LJC during the morning hours, but was free for three hours all along the road near the cove.
- If you’re planning on swimming in San Diego, even in the winter, don’t forget the sunscreen. Even though I didn’t, I returned to Virginia with some very tan arms!
- There is a 100 percent chance that I will return to LJC in the near future.