Anatomy of a Thursday Morning Swim in February
It was not warm when I woke up. The only reason I got out of bed was the flurry of text messages the night before assuring me I was not alone. Like usual, we met just before 6:00 AM at the southeastern corner of the Seal Beach parking lot, near the showers. We changed into wetsuits, walked across 400 feet of ice-cold sand, spat in goggles, rinsed them out, attached blinking lights to our heads, and waded into the ocean. A small wave came and tore the breath from our lungs and we started swimming.
The first few moments are always the hardest. If I thought only about those moments I would never get out of bed again. We regrouped at the end of the pier. The water was very calm. It was foggy and still mostly dark, but there were hints of morning light over Saddleback Mountain. We continued our aquatic march to a yellow stick buoy we could not see, but knew was there, and then towards the red and green lights at the ends of the rock jetties separating Seal Beach from Long Beach. We happily noted the slight rise in water temperature thanks to the power plant located a short distance up the San Gabriel River. After regrouping again we retraced (in the loosest sense of the word - none of us swims straight) our strokes to the stick buoy and back to the end of the pier.
A little way past the buoy a fireball rose on the horizon to the right of the end of the pier. The fog was thick enough you could look straight at it. That is the image to recall next Thursday when the alarm goes off. From the end of the pier we turned towards shore. Once our feet touched bottom, we shuffled our fearful feet so as not to anger any stingrays. We complained about our frozen feet the whole way back across the sand, briefly rinsed off, and cursed even louder as we hobbled on the rough asphalt.
Back in regular-people clothes we shivered our way to La Crema Cafe to warm up. We thought we had done something special until two more shivering souls walked in. They had swum to the Anaheim Bay jetty and they had done it without wetsuits.