If you love the beach, but have already explored all that San Diego’s local coastline has to offer, there’s a lot more to see just up the road!
As a Master’s rough water swimmer, I’ve had the joy of competing off Coronado and Oceanside, Catalina and Alcatraz, Oahu and Maui. But I think my very favorite ocean swim is in the waters off Orange County.
Don’t get me wrong. My beach allegiance is strong. There is simply no beach more beautiful this side of eternity than Coronado. And the sights and sounds (waves crashing against the cliffs and barking sea lions!) that accompany a swim from La Jolla Cove to the Shores never cease to delight this open ocean aficionado.
But there’s something about the annual “Newport Pier 2 Pier Swim” that keeps a bunch of us veteran (I did not say old!) Master’s ocean swimmers coming back year after year. For one thing, the start time of 10 a.m. is very civilized. Organized entirely by the Newport Beach lifeguards, it’s also a relaxed, perfectly run event. We gather at Lifeguard Tower M, just north of the Balboa Pier, to register, check out the water temperature and chat about whether the current is pulling north or south.
But it’s also the challenge. Newport Beach is known for its gnarly surf. But conditions great for surfing can seem death-defying for us lowly swimmers. Over the years, I’ve prayed my way through seven-foot crashing walls of water just to get to the turn buoy. Add the chilly overcast and late-morning wind-chop and you can find yourself in a scene reminiscent of “Victory at Sea!” And, when the temp drops below 60, the “Big Chill” doesn’t begin to describe what happens to your body. When the conditions are tough, it’s a two-mile, wild ride!
But this year? THIS year, the combination of clear, sunny skies, zero surf and perfect water temp (a balmy 70 degrees) made the two-mile trek from pier to pier, well, a day at the beach! One by one, members of the San Diego Master’s contingent ran up the beach to the finish – all smiles!
After a casual awards ceremony at Lifeguard Headquarters, it was time for our post-swim award to ourselves – lunch at The Crab Cooker. Known for its delicious one-plate specials, the iconic Newport Beach eatery makes our trip to the OC complete.
Pleasantly chaotic with friendly service, The Crab Cooker is one of the best family seafood restaurants around. I recommend the grilled halibut plate with rice and slaw, but you’ll also want to try the clam chowder. It’s amazing.
Just a block or so from the beach, board shorts and sandy flip-flops are welcome and they’ll mail out as many of their signature postcards as you can address … free of charge! A couple of pieces of salt-water taffy (free!) for the road, and we’re headed home to San Diego … another vacation “day” just off the beaten path.
With or without the swim competition, why not consider a day trip to the beach – Newport Beach. It’s an easy trip. There’s so much to see and do. But be sure to pack your swimsuit. I can assure you … the water’s fine!
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.