Though the first incarnation wasn’t a rousing success — only seven men showed up — interest kept building and, now, La Jolla Cove hosts a crowded event for some of the sport’s most competitive participants.
The La Jolla Rough Water Swim, to be held on Sept. 9, will test some 2,000 competitors over a one-mile triangular course or a three-mile Gatorman race to Scripps Pier. A triangular course offers arena-like viewing for the spectators at no charge.
A junior course measuring 250 yards will accommodate the rest.
There have been some interruptions in the annual summertime classic. It was halted in 1935 because of attention given the second exposition in the park, then again in 1948 because of polio concerns and finally, in 1959 because of media warnings of sharks in the area. Swim organizers nervously heard about shark warnings again in 2010.
Although all the races are popular and well-attended, the Gatorman event is usually the most intriguing. It’s significantly longer and more challenging than the course for masters and amateur swimmers.
The Gatorman is also by far the most technical. Tides, currents and navigation play major roles in success. Rough conditions, resulting in a number of rescues, have hindered past events. Intense waves can add at least seven minutes to the swimmers’ efforts. The swells can make vision difficult and the chop fills mouths with salt water.
Among past participants, Courtney Lischke of La Jolla is remembered for her eight victories. In 1994, she was the Junior National Champion in the 1650-yard free-style.
Last year’s winners
• Men’s one mile — Michael Cohn of Solana beach, 20 minutes, 52 seconds;
• Women’s one mile — Amy Dantzer of Los Angeles, 23:12:3
• Men’s three mile — Alex Kostich of Los Angeles, 58:20:7
• Women’s three-mile — Jessica Heim of San Diego, 1:01:08.3.
The 82nd annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim schedule
• 9 a.m.: Junior Swim (boys and girls 12 years and under)
• 11 a.m.: Women Masters Classic (19 years and over)
• Noon: Men Masters Classic (19 years and over)
• 1:30 p.m.: Gatorman Championship (men and women 13 and over)
• 1:35 p.m.: Amateur Swim (boys and girls 13 to 18 years old)
The start and finish of each event is on the beach at La Jolla Cove, 1100 block of Coast Boulevard. For more information, visit www.ljrws.com.
The La Jolla Cove Swim Club has partnered with The San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park to create an exhibit dedicated to the small area of beach tucked between adjacent sandstone cliffs.
The exhibit recognizes and honors San Diegans who have reached milestones in the sport of open swimming, like Jack Robertson and Carol Sing, among others. Also on display is a large collection of trophies and awards won by distance swimming legend Florence Chadwick.