Santa Barbara: Swimming with the Ocean Ducks

Sunday March 13th, 2011
Location: Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara, California
Time: 9:00am
Air Temperature: 54 Degrees
Water Temperature: 54 Degrees

I am excited to have the chance to check in on the status of my cold water acclimatization, I have not had the chance to dunk in the cold water since November 2010, since then I have been wrapped up all snug and cozy in the warmth of my local 82 degree lap pool, cozy would be an understatement, apart from the 70 degree lake swim in Florida in February I have been a constant warm water swimmer for the last few months.
 Now I am out and about and fortunate to be staying just an hour away from Santa Barbara for 4 days, I flew in Friday night, was up the next morning for a pool workout, the swim went great and I was pleased to feel snappy despite the cross country travel the day before.
 Saturday is here and I am heading to Santa Barbara with my sister and her husband to catch an ocean swim with the ” Ocean Ducks”. I found them thanks to Big Ned who suggested I look at the Santa Barbara Channel Association website, (good on ya Big Ned, yet again you have steered me in the right direction), there is a local group of swimmers who meet at 9am on Sunday mornings at Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara.
  We set off good and early just in case we have trouble finding the spot, we find the beach OK, but once there are not quite sure where the group meets. My sister and her eagle eyes spot an ” Ocean Ducks ” banner and we excitedly park and head to the beach to investigate.

Ocean Ducks Kayak Support Supplies

  There are just one or twp people there, I introduce myself and explain that I am visiting from the east coast and would like to swim with the “Ocean Ducks”, Angelo who organises the group welcomes me and pointed out the landmarks that swimmers swim to and from, it is half a mile down and half a mile back, 1 lap and you have covered 1 mile. I keep glancing around puzzled not to see other swimmers getting ready to take to the water…” What time does the group start swimming?”, ” Oh we don’t swim in a group” he replied,  but sometimes swimmers of similar speed swim together, what is your mile time?” I tell him and he suggests I swim with Tim, he explains that Tim is a strong open water swimmer and one of the fastest in the group, I gulp!

 Tim arrives and as promised Angelo introduces me,” Hi, I am Tim, the best open water swimmer Kansas has produced”, ” Hi, I am Charlotte and I am visiting from the East Coast, thank you for letting me tag along today”. There, introductions done and we head towards the water, Tim points out where we are headed and tells me he is planning to swim 2 laps to make 2 miles. I am planning to stick to Tim like glue!!
 We head into the surf, that old familiar cold water feel is there, Tim is definitely not a dawdler getting into the water like I am, there is no waist deep pause, no over head stretch of the arms, it is bombs away, he dives under the next incoming wave and is gone. I dive in after him, all the familiar sensations come rushing back as I submerge, I spin my arms fast powering through the water an effort to warm up as fast as I can, I ease off to pace with Tim and do a scan of my body, ” Hey I feel pretty good, I can feel my hands and feet, not bad” I do feel the familiar burning of the cold on my triceps and thighs but apart from that I feel good and am excited to be swimming in the ocean.
 We swim parallel to the beach, Tim  is great to swim with, he has a strong relaxed stroke and knows the beach like the back of his hand.
 There is lots of seaweed and kelp in the water, the kelp is firm and not forgiving when you swim into it, the first time I hit it I flinch, it abruptly stops me in my tracks, after a few times swimming in and amongst it I get accustomed to it, the seaweed tangles around my legs as I swam by, on the second lap something swam up under me and brushes my thigh, I don’t look down, look up or stop, I just keep swimming.
 We are soon down to the end of the beach, turned around and swam back, as we reached the far end the water gets cooler, we stop to turn around, Tim tells me that we were on a shelf and it drops off deep just beyond where we were, that is why the water is colder here, he points just beyond where we are treading water, ” the big fish hang out there”, I look away and focus on our next lap, we swam down and back one more time, our swim time 54 minutes, the temperature 54 degrees.

Exiting the water with West Coast Tim

  We walk out of the water, my teeth are chattering, I make it up to the beach, the ocean ducks have a wonderful spread of hot coffee and snacks. I desperately want to hang out on the beach and chat, I try to look cool and relaxed while I wrap my towel, but I’m not in control of my body any more, it has started to shut down and the familiar shaking has already started, thanks to a concerned look from my sister I scoop up my clothes and am off to the mini to get dressed and have hot tea( Yes she has a mini too!)  Into the mini and I sat trying to hurriedly warm up, I slosh down some tea and after a bit return to the beach to visit with the other swimmers, I am curious to find out more about the Ocean Ducks.
 I join them  layered in a turtleneck, fleece, down vest and hat, they were dressed in light sweat shirts, what a sight I must look.

Visiting on the beach after the swim

  I learnt that Tim has swum here for many years and it shows, he swims well, also that last week a women had seals swimming along under her, that was most likely what was dolphining along below me. Finally I learnt that a few Ocean Duck swimmers were meeting tomorrow at noon at Goleta Beach to swim, ” I’m in” I said, ” I’ll see you tomorrow.”
 Then we were off for Sushi for lunch and a walk along the pier in Santa Barbara, it was a beautiful day and there was a local artists market along the beach, what a terrific place. What’s up next….Goleta beach 12:00pm tomorrow!

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