La Jolla Open Water Swim is Sept. 8: La Jolla Parks & Beaches group plans new traditions for old Cove event

A scene from a past La Jolla Cove swim

Just over 100 years after the event was founded — and after some cancellations through the years — the La Jolla Cove Swim (aka La Jolla Rough Water Swim) will return this year, under a new name “La Jolla Open Water Swim.”

Facilitated by the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group, the one-mile event is slated for 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 8 with ingress and egress at The Cove. It will be swam in five heats, based on age.

“I’ve heard people talk about how they wanted the swim to come back because it was such a great event,” Parks & Beaches member Judy Adams Halter told the Light. “We thought it would be a great opportunity bring back an old tradition. At one point, it was the largest open water swim in the world. We would like to reach that again, but we are starting smaller because we want this to be done right, and build from there.”

The upcoming swim will be one-mile, and capped at 600 swimmers.

Awards will be given to the top three swimmers in their respective categories. But the broader event will be open to the community at large, not just swimmers.

“We have so many people who care about that park, and bring their families there, who might enjoy the event,” she said. “We want the La Jolla Open Water Swim to be a full community event and a moment of civic pride.”

The swim will be run by volunteers to keep costs down, and the plan is to have any early costs underwritten by corporate sponsors and local charity groups. La Jolla Parks & Beaches will hold the funds as sponsor of the event, and use the proceeds to pay for additional maintenance for Scripps Park (75 percent of proceeds) and swim lessons for children in under-served communities (25 percent).

“I would love for it to always be run by volunteers so the money could go to our parks,” Adams Halter said. “Sometimes people think the City should just take care of things, but there are more and more private donors coming forth and taking care of its parks.”

Park maintenance tasks that could be funded include replacing the grass, installing nicer trash cans, adding security at night to patrol the Scripps Park Pavilion restroom when it is constructed, and increased trash pick-up during peak visitor months.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches will work with San Diego’s Park & Recreation Department to secure the right-of-entry permits and use their contractors for the additional maintenance the community would like to see scheduled.

Adams Halter said she has a “great team” of volunteers willing to help, including those from the La Jolla Cove Swim Club, but is looking for more help on the day of the event. She said corporate underwriters and non-profit organizations with financial support are also needed.

Those wishing to donate can send a check to La Jolla Parks & Beaches with “Open Water Swim” in the subject line: PO Box 185, La Jolla, CA 92038.

The La Jolla Rough Water Swim started in 1916, when San Diego was home to the World’s Fair Pan American Exposition. According to its history: “The World’s Fair Committee challenged each community to showcase the Fair by hosting a special event. La Jollans asked, ‘What better way to share our beautiful seaside community than by hosting an ocean swim?’ ”

Due to limitations stemming from World War I, the second swim wasn’t held until 1923. It became an annual event in 1931, with the exception of: 1935 (due to financial support going to the San Diego Exposition that year); 1948 (due to polio concerns); 1959 (due to an unusual shark sighting); 2014 (when the venue was unavailable due to construction of the La Jolla Cove lifeguard project); and 2016-2017 (due to poor water quality at The Cove).

Want more details about the La Jolla Open Water Swim? E-mail or visit