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Lap Swimmers Can Pool Their Skills for an Offshore Drill

September 16, 1993|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition. and

Lap swimmers who have been interested in trying an ocean swim have a chance Saturday with the annual Newport Pier Swim, a three-quarter-mile event.

The moderate distance makes this an ideal introduction to open ocean swimming. The race typically takes about 15 minutes for the winners, 25 minutes or more for the slower competitors.

Organizer Jim Turner said the swim attracts "everything from competitive swimmers to just recreational swimmers." The race, he said, offers lap swimmers interested in ocean swimming a chance to "test the waters." Some other local swims range from two miles to as much as 10 miles.

Experienced ocean swimmers say that first-timers should expect to make some adjustments. For one thing, the water is quite a bit colder than pool water, and because this event is sponsored by the U.S. Masters Assn., no wet suits are allowed (the water temperature should be between 64 and 70 degrees).

For another thing, fighting the surf during entry and exit can be tiring or difficult. If possible, check out the entry conditions, and the underwater terrain, before the race. A little knowledge can ease the entry and also add to safety by reducing the chances of diving into a sandbar.

When a wave approaches during entry, duck and dig into the bottom with your hands, then push off with your legs once the wave has passed.

Once you're beyond the surf line, the biggest difficulty is keeping a straight course while contending with ocean currents and the lack of pool lanes. Most competitive swimmers breathe with their heads up and, every third or fourth stroke, check their position against course-marking buoys or other landmarks.

At the end of a race, the surf can actually be a boon for those who know how to bodysurf. It's possible to pass a dozen swimmers or more if you catch a wave and they don't.

The Newport Pier Swim is part of Newport SeaFest, a citywide series of events that includes the 8K and 4K run or walk on Sunday. Both courses start and finish at Fashion Island.

Start times are 8 a.m. for the 8K, 9 a.m. for the 4K and 9:30 a.m. for a 1K children's run. Race-day registration opens at 6 a.m. Entry fees, including T-shirt, are $20 for the 4K and 8K, $15 for the 1K. Information: (714) 729-4400.

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