Swimming in the Dark at San Clemente

This morning I got up to do the 5:45am practice at Soka University with Coach Ahelee. She gave a good 2500m set of drills and sprints with fins. She will be staying with Novaquatics and Dave and I couldn’t be happier.

The real story of the day is the story of the night. At 9pm, Dave, Ahelee, Carolyn, Brian, Scott and I met up at the San Clemente Pier, put on glow sticks and red flashing divers lights and did a 2 mile swim up the coast in the dark. Since the Catalina swim will be done 75% in the dark (we’ll start at 11:30pm and should end at 9-10am), we wanted to get used to swimming in those conditions. I’ll confess, I was a little nervous all day. Though I figured it would be fine, I still wondered how the marine life would respond to our lights. I had heard that lights attract fish. Adding to the concern was the fact that in the past several days there had been some agressive great white behavior 2-3 miles to the north at Doheny and 20 miles to the south in Oceanside and Carlsbad. (See reports here.)

A small sliver moon was out, the sky was clear, nice shoulder high waves were hitting the beach, and the wind was almost non-existant as we entered the surf. The water was a nice mid-sixties. The heavier waves forced us to start stroking soon after we went in since we had to duck under the large ones. As we started to swim north, something hit me in the back. I though Scott or Brian had thrown something at me, so I looked up. They seemed to be paddling along, so I kept swimming. Next I hit some kelp. I had no warning since it was dark, but I knew kelp was harmless and determined not to panic. Next I noticed how my arms were creating blue glowing bubble clouds- apparently the red tide was going to produce some nice bioluminenance light shows as we stroked and kicked in the dark. It was quite surreal. Then a fish hit my arm.

It was a small bait fish…no need to panic.

More strokes, then a small fish hit me in the cap. Again, I determined not to think about why bait fish break the surface. For the next mile, I got hit in the chest, arms, hands, head, shoulders and face by the flying fish. A few times the fish jumped out of the water, landed on my back and flopped their way down my back and legs before re-entering the sea. Dave was having a similar experience and the Scott and Brian were watching hundreds of these small fish jump out of the water all around us and dive back into the ocean leaving blue luminescent trails in the water.

After the 8 or 9th time getting hit by the fish, I settled into nice long strokes and had a wonderful 2 mile swim. While we all kept feelling the fish hit us, we watched the strange glow of our bubbles and kept an eye on the headlamps and glow sticks worn by our paddlers, Scott and Brian. We also kept close proximity to the flashing red diver lights mounted on the goggle straps of the other swimmers. It was a wonderful swim. As we returned to the pier, we followed the bright strobe light Carolyn was holding for us on the shore. I caught a wave that propelled me at great speed the last 100 yards. Nice body surf ride to end a great swim.

Fun, Surreal, Wild experience. Looking forward to Catalina!

Thanks Ellie for giving me the evening off to do this after being gone for a week. Thanks Dave, Ahelee, Brian and Scott! That is an experience you don’t have on your own!