Rough-Water Swim Isn’t Day at the Beach

They swam on Sunday, but the 1,369 water bugs who roughed up the Cove in the 58th La Jolla Rough Water Swim could hardly be called Sunday swimmers.

The country’s largest rough-water swim, over a one-mile course, doesn’t attract the weekend athlete. Most casual athletic endeavors include timeouts, court changes or a token rest period, but unless a dolphin offers a ride, open-water swimmers don’t have that option in the ocean.

And it’s a kind of swimming you can’t simulate at the YMCA.

“It’s not like swimming in a pool,” said Del Mar’s Beth Lutz, a five-time women’s masters winner. “The currents are always different, when the waves come up you have to adjust. . . . Ocean experience comes in handy.”


Lutz, 29, finished fifth overall, but unlike pool racing, comparative times mean little. Her time of 22 minutes 17 seconds was “about 40 seconds slower than last year,” Lutz said, “but you can’t compare them. The water conditions aren’t the same, and the buoys are never in exactly the same place.”

Lutz said conditions for the race were good.

“It was a little choppy, and there was a lot of kelp; it was really bad from the second buoy to the finish, but it was pretty nice.” Lutz has won the Coronado Independence Day Rough Water Swim all four times she has entered.

Hundreds of spectators lined vantage points, walkways and grassy areas above the Cove from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., watching the 36 divisions, which began with the girls’ 8-and-under and finished with the women’s 65-and older.


The division with the most entrants was the men’s masters, where 538 competed. And it was in the 19-24 and 25-29 classes--both groups entered the water together--that the crowd was treated to the closest finish of the day.

Gerry Rodrigues, 25, of Pacific Palisades and Alan Voisard, 28, of San Diego broke away from the pack early, with Voisard taking the lead out to the first buoy.

After the second turn, the swimmers were even heading for home. Rodrigues took a half-length lead with 25 yards to go, and the swimmers matched each other stroke for stroke to the shore until Voisard veered off to the left, close to the rocks, where there was an undercurrent.

Rodrigues reached the beach and crossed the finish line in 22:02, Voisard stumbled to shore right behind him in 22:05.


“There was a little undercurrent,” Voisard said. “I couldn’t get out.”


Richard Drewelow of La Jolla, swimming for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, was the overall and amateur senior men’s winner. Drewelow, 19, won in 20:17. Henry Wise, 19, of Long Beach, was second in 20:32. Rodrigues and Voisard finished third and fourth. Michael Picotte of San Diego, representing Swim San Diego, was third overall and first in the men’s 15-18 division at 21:06. Michelle Butcher of Alpine, 17, was the women’s overall and 15-18 division winner in 21:53.