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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ocean Swimming West Coast Style

Photos courtesy of Sean Vo in Huntington Beach, California.

Imagine a young teenager who is comfortable in the ocean.

Then the annual Huntington Beach Pier Swim is a great introductory swim.

Not only do the athletes swim around the longest concrete pier on the West Coast of America, but they also face large surf, both going out and coming back in.

Running in from the onshore start, dolphining through the shallows, diving under the crashing waves, sprinting out past the pylons, rounding the end of the pier, railroading through the incoming swells, and body surfing into shore calls upon various skills needed by ocean swimmers.

"The swim around the pier attracts up to 300 people; about half are local and half come from all over the place," said race director John Valinsky. "Sometimes, it is cancelled because of the big waves. Gene Belshe started it as a kid's race 64 years ago and now we have 16 age divisions as the race has grown. But there are strong currents that run across the course, so even when the race is not cancelled by big waves, we still have to [help] save up to 50 people in a race as they get pulled through the pier.

We are now offering the Legends Division, a new division for those swimmers over 65 years old. There are more swimmers of this age nowadays."

Swim Long Beach, led by frequent winner Hank Wise, won the Gene Belshe Memorial Perpetual Trophy as the high-scoring team. Wise, an experienced surfer and former swimmer at Stanford University known as Dolphin Boy, said, "A lucky wave coming into shore is what a dolphin boy dreams about."



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