Test the Waters: Two fundraising swims planned for September


By Ashley Mackin

Two community swims are on the horizon at La Jolla Cove, both organized by local charitable organizations. The first is the 24th annual Bob Litchfield Swim, sponsored by the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary, on Sept. 5. The second is the 83rd La Jolla Rough Water Swim on Sept. 8.

Robert Litchfield Swim

The La Jolla Sunrise Rotary’s one-mile swim starts at 6:30 a.m. (taking the sunrise part seriously) at the La Jolla Cove and ends in front of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Viewers generally stand on the beach finish line and cheer the swimmers as they exit the ocean, said Mark Powell, Program Chair for the La Jolla Sunrise Rotary.

He explained the event is named for Robert Litchfield, a humanitarian and teacher at La Jolla High School. “Robert’s inspiration teaching and compassionate approach to life inspired thousands of students to become caring, considerate and contributing members of society,” he said. “Robert Litchfield was dedicated to his students, but his life was cut short after a bout with cancer.” Robert’s widow, Paula, will participate in the swim.

Keeping Litchfield’s passion alive, the proceeds from the $60 registration and any donations go to support the San Pasqual Academy, the first and only residential education center for foster youth in the country. The Escondido facility has family- style homes with 184 beds and a campus with an accredited high school, a computer for each student, a cafeteria, a technology and career information center, an assembly hall, recreation fields, and a swimming pool.

“Teens live and learn at the Academy as they prepare for college and/or a career path,” Powell said. “For many of these students, they will be the first one to graduate high school in their family. Ninety- three percent of these kids graduate high school and 98 percent of the graduating students go on to higher learning.”

Rough Water Swim

For the 83rd year, the La Jolla Rough Water Swim will start and end at La Jolla Cove. Swimmers participate in at least one of five events, starting at 9 a.m. with the 250-yard junior swim for boys and girls 12 and under. The following events include the one-mile women’s masters classic, for women 19 and older at 11 a.m.; the one- mile men’s masters classic, for men 19 and older at noon; the three-mile “Gatorman” Championship, for swimmers 13 and older 1:30 p.m.; and one-mile amateur swim for swimmers 13-18 years old at 1:35 p.m.

The Rough Water Swim started in 1916 in preparation for the World’s Fair with seven male swimmers. Last year, more than 1,300 swimmers participated.

LJRWS media relations representatives said the appeal lies in both the history and the challenge. Designated strictly as a community event, the Rough Water Swim still operates under 1920s bylaws (which includes not allowing wetsuits). Under said bylaws, children are allowed to participate despite their financial means, so part of the registration goes to underwriting youth participation.

The longevity and the challenge has given the La Jolla Rough Water Swim some notoriety, Uncapher added. When the swim started, he said, about 95 percent of participants were from San Diego. Now, it’s down to 40 percent, and that participants come from Arizona, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Australia. Furthermore, a number of Olympic athletes have used this event in the past to test themselves.

Those wanting to sign up for the swim can do so 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Chase Bank, 7777 Girard Ave. in a last chance to participate in what Uncapher calls, “a pure community event, and an impassioned event.”

Robert Litchfield Swim

■ When: 6:30 a.m. Sept. 5

■ Where: Starts at La Jolla Cove, ends at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club

■ Why: To support the San Pasqual Academy for foster youth

■ Cost: $60 registration, donations accepted

■ Website:

La Jolla Rough Water Swim

■ When: 9 a.m. Sept. 8

■ Where: Starts and ends at La Jolla Cove

■ Why: To support Kiwanis service projects for community youth

■ Cost: Junior $60, Amateur $70, Masters $90, Gatorman $120

■ Website: