bare legs, making you wish you had stayed in bed.
This is the kind of experience that's essential to the morning outings of
the Balboa Swim Club, a recently founded group that endeavors to show how
pleasantly clean the water in Newport Bay is by diving straight into it.
The group, which has about seven or eight regular members, steps gingerly
into the water off Collins Avenue on Tuesday mornings. Then, stroking
happily past motorboats and yachts through the cool water, members cruise
up to the vicinity of the Balboa Island bridge and back again.
Jim Grahl, the island resident who started the group, said it's been
meeting for about six weeks. Besides their Tuesday swims, the members
also have a practice of plunging into the ocean off Little Corona on
And out there, you don't have to worry about the mud -- just the
To the uninitiated, the open-water swims might sound like a somewhat
eccentric way of spending time. And maybe they are. But Grahl said
"You get out of the water after a swim, and you're glad you did it," he
said. "It's getting in the water and hearing the alarm go off and not
hitting the snooze button."
Mary Hardesty, an island resident who plunges in with the group on a
regular basis, said she finds the club's efforts considerably more
entertaining than puttering around in a lap pool.
"You see the coastline from a different perspective," she said. "It's
more interesting. It's not just going back and forth."
But can the visual variety compensate for that squelching mud and the
shock of jumping into cool water at a time when most people are taking a
Grahl said it is. And he spreads the gospel of open-water swimming with
persuasive vigor. Listening to him, it seems all of the slight
discomforts are actually just underappreciated forms of pleasure.
"If anybody needs coaching or encouragement to jump in," he said, "that's