We took a medium-long swim in Ventucky on Saturday. Visitors and locals were out in abundance for Pirate Days and the Surf Rodeo, so we decided to start from the Fairgrounds and lap around at the Harbor. Quite a bit of chop, some currents, and no sun. Surfers were out in gloves and booties; all I had was a Jolyn two-piece. It was good day.
Then on Sunday, we cruised up to Goleta (Santa Barbara) for the Semana Nautica 6 mile event. There were 45-entrants, several I knew and others I was excited to meet, mostly from the Ventura/Laguna open water swimming circles. We would race from Goleta Park to Arroyo Burro Beach in a route that took us out deep as the coastline created a bay. Initially, it looked like a beautiful day. I was excited to swim roundtrip.
The swim started north of the Goleta Pier at 9am. Ryan picked me up in the kayak early – a note taken from Neil van der Byl – and we headed around the pier and south with the pack. Although bumpy, the first hour felt strong and the water was warmer than Ventura the day before. At the second feed, Ryan told me we were more than halfway. And then… we stopped moving.
The current hit hard. The yellow kayak to my right stopped for a feed and flew backwards 25 yards. We played cat-and-mouse for the next hour before beginning to move again, stretching time and my stroke over the last two miles or so. Cruising in at 3 hours, we grabbed a cookie before turning the kayak around. Someone asked if I wanted a towel. I just pointed at the water and dove back in.
Passing some remaining swimmers, we received stares and then, “You’re heading back?!” “Yep.” Kelp and fog thick, we clambered north for just over an hour, heading deeper into the mess with every stroke.
Suddenly, Ryan stopped me. My pilot had lost sight of the shoreline. Unpredictable conditions and God forbid something happen, we had to make a decision. Turn for the beach or risk it. We had come north for cold water. This was balmy, rather, and swimming through kelp after 8 miles is like pulling heavy ropes. My strength was fading, both mentally and physically, and Ryan grew less comfortable in the kayak. The decision was disappointing, but simple. It wasn’t worth it.
An hour later, safe and warm in the car, we were happy with the decision. Another solid training weekend and adventure in the books. I just wish we had a camera. There is not much more frightening than being in the middle of the ocean, equipped with merely a Speedo, and walled-in by fog.