Relay record: Number of swimmers for 20th La Jolla Cove 10-Mile Relay is set for all-time high

The La Jolla Cove 10-Mile Relay is set for Sunday, Sept. 25.
More than 650 people swam at least part of the La Jolla Cove 10-Mile Relay last year. The 2022 version is set for Sunday, Sept. 25.
(Susan Forsburg)

The La Jolla Cove 10-Mile Relay is expecting the largest group of swimmers in its two-decade history when it races back into town on Sunday, Sept. 25.

The relay is a charity event during which teams of up to five members swim a total of 10 miles in a relay over a 1-mile ocean course off La Jolla Shores. Swimmers will hit the water at 7 a.m., wrapping up by 1 p.m.

Relay co-director John Heffner said the event sold out in 72 hours this year, with 140 teams registered. Twenty-five solo swimmers will complete the entire 10 laps alone.

In all, 675 swimmers are expected to take on the race, more than ever before, Heffner said. Entrants hail from across the United States and Mexico.

The event, which began in 2000 and has been held yearly except for 2009, 2014 and 2020, used to begin from La Jolla Cove but recently has moved to The Shores to accommodate more participants.

The 2021 relay drew 652 swimmers; 2019 had 646.

The race, also organized by Tom Hecker, is entirely volunteer-operated, Heffner said, with all proceeds going to the American Diabetes Association and the Prevent Drowning Foundation of San Diego.

Last year, the relay raised $36,000. More than $180,000 has been donated to nonprofits in the past 10 years, since Heffner and Hecker have been directors.

For this 20th installment, Heffner said he’s “really looking forward to seeing the joy and enthusiasm of the participants. … People obviously love this event.”

“We tend to emphasize the overall joy of swimming and the camaraderie among the swimming community. All who participate are winners.”

— John Heffner, La Jolla Cove 10-Mile Relay co-director

Heffner said it’s been a “great summer” for ocean swimming in La Jolla and he hopes the 10-Mile Relay will be the “cherry on top,” showcasing the beauty of the community and its shoreline.

The event will include a light lunch donated by Duke’s, and Sharp Rees-Stealy will provide onsite dermatology exams. Local merchants will offer raffle prizes.

However, the best part, Heffner said, is the solidarity among the swimmers.

Though there is some competition among the teams and some take it more seriously than others, “we tend to emphasize the overall joy of swimming and the camaraderie among the swimming community,” he said. “All who participate are winners.”

For more information, visit