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Open Water Swim Is Nothing Like the Laps of Luxury

July 21, 1994|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff. and

Every summer, Bob Werth hears lap swimmers tell him about their accomplishments in the pool. A half mile in the ocean, they figure, will be a piece of cake. Werth knows better.

There's the current to contend with, along with the chop and the waves.

"It's a lot different than doing laps," Werth said, understating the obvious.

Werth is the organizer of the 44th annual Huntington Beach Open Rough Water Pier Swim, to be held Saturday morning. Though he warns lap swimmers that the ocean might be tougher than they expect, the city-sponsored event is ideal for folks who want to try their stroke in the open water.

For one thing, it's shorter than most of the summer ocean swims held along the county's coast.

"There's a whole circuit of these kinds of swims," said Werth, referring to others that range from three-quarters of a mile to 10 miles.

Also, Saturday's event will have plenty of junior lifeguards monitoring the race in the water, ready to pluck out anyone who poops out before the finish line.

The event is divided into two swims, one for juniors 12 to 15 years old and another for participants 16 and older. Both swims begin with a mass start, with the entire field running down the sand into the water. Swimmers will negotiate the north side of the pier first, then swing around the end and come back along the south side.

In the past few years, the event has drawn 125 to 150 swimmers annually. Many are first-timers with a range of ability levels, Werth said. A few years ago, a 92-year-old woman tried and made it halfway before catching a ride the rest of the way.

There are familiar faces.

"There are some regulars who have been doing it for all 12 years I've been (organizing) it," said Werth, a senior recreation supervisor for Huntington Beach.

Prize divisions in the adult race include: men, 16 to 24; senior men, 25 to 31; senior women, 16 to 24; masters men, 32 to 39; grand masters men, 40 to 49; masters women, 25 to 39; grand masters women, 40 and older; super masters men, 50 and older. The race for junior men and junior women, ages 12 to 15, will start at 9:45 a.m.

The record for men is 8 minutes, 46 seconds; for women 10:14, but many swimmers take twice as long.

Trophies will be awarded for first, second and third places in each division, plus a trophy will go to the first Huntington Beach boy and girl to finish. Also, several local swim teams compete for the Gene Belshe Memorial Perpetual Trophy.

Race-day registration will be held from 8 to 8:30 a.m. The registration deadline for T-shirts has passed.

* What: Huntington Beach Open Rough Water Pier Swim.

* When: Saturday, July 23, at 9 a.m. for swimmers 16 and older and 9:45 a.m. for juniors. Registration will be from 8 to 8:30 a.m.

* Where: Huntington Beach Pier.

* Whereabouts: From the San Diego (405) Freeway, exit south at Euclid Street; the street swings west and becomes Ellis Street. Continue as it turns into Main Street and follow it to the ocean.

* Wherewithal: $10.

* Where to call: (714) 536-5486.

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