September has many opportunities for La Jollans to swim for a cause

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Three major community swims are happening this month kicked off by the granddaddy of them all, the 80th annual La Jolla Rough Water Swim. The Sunday, Sept. 12, event is expected to draw more than 2,000 participants young and old.

Also slated for this month are La Jolla Sunrise Rotary’s 19th annual Bob Litchfield Invitational Swim and the 10th Annual La Jolla Cove Swim Club’s 10-mile relay. The invitational benefits the San Pasqual Academy and is on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 6:45 a.m. and the relay is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 26.

The La Jolla Rough Water Swim was first held in 1916 and became an annual event starting in 1931. It is billed as the largest rough water swim in the country.

This year’s Rough Water Swim will include nearly 20 different races throughout the morning and afternoon with swimmers separated into age and gender groups. Kids’ races run from 9-9:45 a.m. and are 250 yards long, and the 1-mile adult races begin at 11 a.m. There is also a 3-mile Gatorman event for men and women, scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. The final races of the day are the one-mile amateur boys and girls races at 1:35 p.m. and 1:40 p.m. respectively.

The 1-mile swim follows a triangular route starting and ending at La Jolla Cove. The Gatorman course follows the coast north along La Jolla Shores to Scripps Pier and returns to La Jolla Cove.

“We’ve improved the course this year with bigger markers making it more visible so swimmers can see if the surf gets big or the wind chops come up,” said Bill Uncapher, event co-chair. “It will never be perfect but we always strive for that goal.”

Uncapher added the event draws a national and international crowd. “It’s worldwide though primarily people come from the Western states,” he said, adding there is a contingent of 400 to 500 coming from Arizona and another group of about 100 coming from Texas.

La Jolla Kiwanis Club, a major supporter of the swim’s children’s events, operates a concession booth at the end of the lawn overlooking the Cove swim area.

La Jolla Sunrise Rotary’s Bob Litchfield Invitational Swim on Sept. 16 is approximately one mile going from La Jolla Cove to La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. The swim was named for the late Bob Litchfield, an English teacher at La Jolla High who died of cancer 10 years ago. Rotarian Jim Poirier said the swim event benefits San Pasqual Academy, a foster home for older kids who cannot find a home.

“They live at the school,” he said. “They come from everything; drug homes, loser situations. They’re being rescued. We (Rotary) give them some college scholarships.”

The event cost is $50. Those interested in participating should call (858) 456-1082.

The 10th Annual La Jolla Cove Swim Club’s 10-Mile Relay on Sunday, Sept. 26, benefits the American Diabetes Association, said race co-chair Tom Hecker.

“The original founder’s son had diabetes and he wanted to do something to generate funds to cure diabetes,” he said, adding relay teams swim two, one-mile legs starting and finishing at La Jolla Cove.

There is a $50 entry fee per swimmer and additional donations are strongly encouraged.

“The top prize for the swim is the team that collects the most donation dollars,” said Hecker. “Last year we had 384 people participate and we donated $14,000 to the American Diabetes Association, the San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation and the La Jolla Swim Club.”

For more information go to

and click on the 10 Mile Relay event icon.


80th La Jolla Rough Water Swim

  • What:1-mile competitive ocean swim; there is also a junior event (250 yards) and a Gatorman event (3 miles)
  • When:Sunday, Sept. 12, 9 a.m.-1:40 p.m.
  • Where:Starts and ends at La Jolla Cove