“Due to the poor ocean water quality and high bacteria level currently present at La Jolla Cove, we will be deferring the annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim event until the Cove's ocean water and beach conditions improve,” said Bill Perry, director of La Jolla Rough Water Swim (LJRWS) media relations. “The safety of our swimmers has always been our primary concern. The Committee feels that to subject our entrants to the Cove's poor ocean water quality this year would be irresponsible and contrary to the high standards of this 100-year-old event.”
Perry noted that LJRWS has always “strived to provide a first-class aquatic event for all members of the family, and we don't feel that would be possible this year considering the current conditions at La Jolla Cove. We are hopefully optimistic and look forward to seeing everyone again in the near future.”
The first La Jolla Rough Water Swim was held in 1916 won by Charles “Chubby” Shields in 48 minutes.
Event cancellation during its long history has been rare. Swims over the years were cancelled due to sponsorship changes (1935), a polio scare (1948) and shark sightings (1959). The swim was also canceled in 2014 due to the construction of a new lifeguard tower and bathroom renovation at the Cove lifeguard tower up above the beach.
There was strong local reaction to the announcement.
Dan Simonelli, current president of La Jolla Cove Swim Club with more than 200 members, many of whom swim daily at the Cove, said "It's understandable," about the event's cancellation this year adding “most of us down there every day have seen this coming.”
Noting Cove water conditions have been worsening the past few years due largely to the growing number of pinnipeds and their accumulating waste, Simonelli added, “There are going to be economic repercussions. This is a huge hit. In fact, our (club's) annual June 25 Scripps Pier-to-Cove swim has only about half of the applicants it has had the last few years at this time.”
Bob West, the 80-year-old former Cove Swim Club president who has been swimming in the Cove almost daily since age 12, said the situation with too many sea lions and too much waste started about seven years ago and has been worsening since.
West said there used to be a colony of sea lions on the east side of Goldfish Point, and, over the years, it started multiplying and then taking over the cliffs area to the east of the Cove, and then the beach.
“Last summer we counted 500 sea lions at one time," West said. "There are about 80 lions on the sand now every morning. There's even poop in the sand on the beach.”
La Jolla Town Council is devoting its next monthly meeting on Thursday, June 9 starting at 5:30 p.m. at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. to “Crisis in the Cove,” a discussion of the sea lion situation.
The public is encouraged to attend.