It was a perfect day for an open water race in Southern California on Saturday, when Seal Beach Swim Club hosted its 46th annual Rough Water Swim. Seal Beach Swim Club head coach Patti Haney explained, “This is our 46th Rough Water Swim. Traditionally the Seal Beach race marks the start of the summer, while the La Jolla Rough Water Swim (over Labor Day Weekend) marks the end.” Indeed, several hundred swimmers showed up at the Seal Beach Pier to compete in either the 3-mile race, the 1-mile race, or in one of the age-group contests. The largest turnout, of nearly 100 swimmers ranging from 12 to 82 years old, was for the 1-mile race.
The Seal Beach Rough Water is steeped in tradition. Announcer Scott Weir has been to every one of the 46 races. “He used to swim it, but now he’s been our announcer for the last 20 years,” explained Haney. The event was the brainchild of then-Seal Beach Swim Club head coach Ron Blackledge. Weir remembers, “he thought that, given our proximity to the beach, we needed to be better beach swimmers. So he brought the whole team down here for a race. Team parents Richard and Joanne Yeo ran the event for years. Club parents set buoys; everyone participated.”
In addition to the competitors, there was a large group watching the festivities, cheering from shore or from the pier itself. Among those on hand was Stacey Fresonke Juler, who participated in the very first Seal Beach Rough Water in 1968. In 1971, Juler (then Stacey Fresonke) became the youngest swimmer to successfully complete the Catalina Channel Swim, a 20-mile cold-water crossing that took her and her three companions (Lynne Cox, Andy Taylor, and Dennis Sullivan) 12 hours and 34 minutes. As Juler watched the racers from the beach, she remarked, “it’s really ideal weather for this race. It’s not ‘rough’ at all.”
Which was probably just fine for the participants.