La Jolla Open Water Swim proceeds could revive park concerts


The upcoming La Jolla Open Water Swim is changing course — just a little.

Proceeds from the Sunday, Sept. 8 one-mile swim (with the fundraising goal of $100,000) will now underwrite the launch of Friends of La Jolla Cove/Scripps Park and its planned projects. These include bringing back the La Jolla Concerts by the Sea and, maybe, the Fourth of July fireworks show at The Cove.

“I’m really excited at the idea of a beloved tradition coming back that would, in turn, bring back other beloved traditions,” said La Jolla Open Water Swim organizer Judy Adams Halter. “The event creates a community among San Diegans.”

The plan was originally to use 75 percent of proceeds to pay for park improvements (the other 25 percent would be directed to Prevent Drowning Foundation of San Diego, City of San Diego Lifeguards, Windansea Surf Club and La Jolla Cove Swim Club for youth swimming lessons in disadvantaged neighborhoods), but after meeting with the City and Enhance La Jolla, which is administering the new Maintenance Assessment District (MAD), volunteers did not want to duplicate services.

A MAD is a legal mechanism by which property owners can vote to assess themselves to receive enhanced maintenance, landscaping and lighting services. These services are above and beyond the City’s baseline general services. A MAD for La Jolla was approved by voters in 2016, and funding was allocated for the La Jolla MAD in the Mayor’s 2020 fiscal year budget.

“We know the City and the MAD are going to work to improve Scripps Park, and we don’t want to step on their toes, so we are going to earmark these swimming event funds for the return of the concerts,” Halter said.

Once run as an independent event, the La Jolla Concerts by the Sea was an eight-concert series held from July to September in Scripps Park. However, after 33 years, its last season was in 2016, with organizers citing a lack of consistent funding.

Should the La Jolla Open Water Swim generate enough cash to run the concerts and then some, the plan is to revive The Cove fireworks celebration. The Fourth of July fireworks show ended in 2017, also due to a lack of funding. Organizers announced in February 2018 that there would be no fireworks — which there had been since 2008 — that year in Scripps Park.

The La Jolla Open Water Swim is effectively a reincarnation of the La Jolla <FZ,1,0,11>Rough Water Swim, which started in 1916 at La Jolla Cove and was held off-and-on until 2015. Although it started in 1916, due to limitations stemming from World War I, the second swim wasn’t until 1923. It became an annual event in 1931, with the exception of in 1935, due to financial support going to the San Diego Exposition of that year; in 1948 due to polio concerns; in 1959 due to an unusual shark sighting; in 2014, when the venue was unavailable due to construction of the La Jolla Cove lifeguard project; and in 2016-2017 due to poor water quality at The Cove.

Halter previously told the Light: “At one point, it was the largest open water swim in the world, and we would like to reach that, but we are starting smaller because we want this to be done right and build from there.” To further the community pride aspect of the swim, Halter and volunteers are collecting photos from La Jolla Rough Water Swims past for an exhibition that will be on view in Scripps Park during the event.

“When we saw people rallying around this, especially long-term San Diegans and La Jollans, I thought there had to be a historical exhibition associated with this,” she explained.

“We’ll have a 10-by-20-foot exhibition, so we’d like people to e-mail their personal photos for the exhibit. They don’t have to be swimming in this year’s event, we still want their pictures at!”

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

Learn more at

IF YOU GO: Facilitated by the La Jolla Parks & Beaches advisory group, the one-mile begins at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 8 with ingress and egress at La Jolla Cove.