“I only found out the distance a few minutes before we got in the water. I thought it was just going to be about 500 yards. I’ve never done an ocean swim like this before,” said Paul who coaches kids at AquaZot Swim Club at UC Irvine during the week.
“I was planning on going surfing this morning.”
The swim began in 2003 to educate the public on the importance of water safety. And safety is the primary focus of the event as Newport Beach and Orange County fighters, and Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol were all present for the swim.
A Harbor Patrol boat followed swimmers, and anyone who had trouble with the distance could turn around at any time.
“That is why we don’t race, this is just a fun time to enjoy the water,” foundation founder Johnny Johnson said.
This year’s theme, Drowning is Everyone’s Problem, gears toward the “Safer 3” that calls for “safer water,” which guards against children entering unsupervised pools; “safer kids,” achieved through constant adult supervision, as well as by ensuring children are given swimming lessons; and “safer response” which includes knowledge of CPR and rescue techniques.
The swim got underway a few minutes after 10 a.m. with 75 to 80 swimmers this year, nearly 20 more than last years.
And every year things are growing, organizers said.
The first year only 6 swimmers attended, Johnson said.
“I was just thrilled to make the swim with my granddaughter,” Johnson said as he exited the surf with 11-year-old Ryann Johnson.
“I didn’t know where I was going half the time,” said Ryann, who is no newbie to the swim as this was her third year participating. “The water was really cold and you could see way down, so many things down there.”
About 80% of the swimmers completed the entire distance of the swim. Only a few turned around early due to temperatures, which were in the low 60s.