‘A wide-open open-water swim’: Pier to Cove Swim returns to La Jolla on June 25

During the Pier to Cove Swim, swimmers complete a 1.5-mile route from the Scripps Pier to the La Jolla Cove.
During the Pier to Cove Swim, swimmers complete a 1.5-mile route from the Scripps Pier to the La Jolla Cove.
(Paula Selby)

Unlike the more competitive or challenging swims that La Jolla has to offer, the upcoming Pier to Cove Swim is touted as a “more fun” and accessible outing at sea. Presented by the La Jolla Cove Swim Club, the Pier to Cove Swim is a mile-and-a-half open water swim from Scripps Pier to La Jolla Cove, with this year’s event scheduled for June 25.

Swimmers may compete as “regulation” in just a swimsuit, goggles and swim cap; or participate without competing as “non-regulation” and wear a wetsuit, fins and or any other non-motorized swim gear.

“I think this is the most fun swim in the area,” said Swim Club member and event organizer Doug Burleigh. “It’s point to point, so you don’t have to go around buoys or anything. It’s also not too challenging for those that swim a lot. Those that swim a mile a day only have to go an extra half-mile.”

The race will start at approximately 9 a.m. at Scripps Pier and will finish on the beach at La Jolla Cove.

The fastest swimmers typically finish in about 30 minutes, and there is a 90-minute cutoff for the swim. After that time, any swimmers remaining in the water will be removed by San Diego Lifeguards and brought to The Cove. Swim bags will be transported to The Cove so participants can pick them up at the finish line.

La Jolla Cove serves as the finish line for the Pier to Cove Swim on June 25
(San Diego Union-Tribune Community Press File Photo)

As with past years, Duke’s La Jolla restaurant will provide a buffet breakfast for all swimmers. Awards will be presented to the first male and first female regulation swimmers and to the first place regulation swimmers in each age group, broken into five-year increments.

Despite the awards, “we downplay the competitive aspect of it,” Burleigh said. “We recognize that some people want medals, but we bill it as something that people can show up and enjoy.”

The event started as a La Jolla Cove Swim Club activity with 50 or so swimmers and a potluck, with safety patrol conducted by volunteer kayakers. Burleigh said he got involved about 15 years ago when he noticed some issues associated with using volunteers, and started obtaining permits from the city of San Diego so lifeguards could assist with the safety element.

When that happened, he said, the event started to grow. “It went from a potluck to catered food and people started coming from out of state and Mexico,” Burleigh said. “It just grew and grew and now there are over 200 swimmers that participate.”

He said many swimmers, himself included, appreciate the scenic opportunities and chances to go at each person’s own pace.

“You don’t have people coming at you, not a very competitive event,” he said. “It’s a more fun event. Some people want to set out and win it, others want to enjoy it. They know they can stop along the way and appreciate the blue sky or the view from the water, or even roll over on their backs and let the water carry them when they feel like it. Most people aren’t in it to compete, they are there to enjoy it.”

One of them is former La Jolla Cove Swim Club president Dan Simonelli, who has participated in swims around Coronado Island and the 12-mile Anacapa Island swim off Oxnard. But the local swim still holds a special place for him.

“The uniqueness of [the Pier to Cove Swim] is that it is one way, and we cut across the ocean where it goes over some deep water, and is so beautiful to go over the underwater canyon,” Simonelli said. “You get pretty far out there and I like that aspect of it, it feels like a broader open water event. It’s a wide-open open-water swim.”

That said, swimmers under the age of 16 who want to participate must submit a resume of swimming skills and past competitive events, as Burleigh said he does not recommend the Pier to Cove Swim be someone’s — especially a younger person’s — first open water swim. Participation for young swimmers is at the sole discretion of the race director, and an individual safety kayaker may be required to escort swimmers under 16.

Registration for the swim is $65. Proceeds from the event goes to the La Jolla Cove Swim Club, which donates money to various causes, hoping to “use the money in a meaningful way,” Burleigh said. Past donations have gone to crowdfunding efforts when friends of the Swim Club have died, and to the Scripps Park restroom facility renovation.

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