The Coast News Group
Swimmers face the elements in the open water swim. No wetsuits or fins are allowed. File photo by Promise Yee
Swimmers face the elements in the open water swim. No wetsuits or fins are allowed. File photo by Promise Yee
Rancho Santa FeSports

Annual Labor Day pier swim expected to draw 500

OCEANSIDE — Grab your Speedo, the annual Labor Day Pier Swim will be held Sept. 1.

More than 500 swimmers are expected to compete in the 1-mile open water swim around Oceanside Pier.

Event coordinator Larry Barr said race turnout depends on the weather. More than half of the athletes sign up the morning of the swim.

A big part of the race challenge is facing the elements. Swimmers cannot wear fins or a wetsuit.

Ocean temperature, currents and the race distance are demanding.

“The biggest challenge is finishing it,” Barr said. “It’s a rough water swim, not a pool event. It’s totally different elements.”

The annual swim is a beloved tradition for many Oceanside families. Barr said he has seen three generations of a family take on the challenge together.

“There’s a core group that has been swimming the race for years,” Barr said.

Age divisions range from 12 to 80 and older. The top category was added to the contest last year at the request of an age 80-plus swimmer.

“I’ve seen a 70-year-old man swim the race, and his wife waiting on the beach with a towel for him,” Barr said.

“Most swimmers compete to stay healthy and challenge themselves.”

Barr added the annual 85-year event is the longest running open water swim competition in the U.S.

Matt Crabtree, of Murrieta, California, has competed in the annual swim for five years.

“In the beginning it was to see if I could do it,” Crabtree said. “I’ve always been fairly outgoing and athletic.

“Each year as I get older I see if it’s something I can still do.”

Crabtree said facing outdoor elements makes each year unique.

“It can be a different kind of swim every year,” Crabtree said. “One year it was really foggy and the lifeguards had to point me back because I couldn’t see the pier.

Another year the currents made it tough to get out and stay on course. You just don’t know.”

In addition to the race being a local tradition, swimmers from as far away as Arizona, New York and Alaska come to compete.

The race is a personal best challenge and awards medals to top age group finishers. The fastest swimmers complete the mile in 15 minutes.

Proceeds from the race help support the Oceanside Swim Club. Funds raised allow the club to purchase equipment, pay expenses and provide youth scholarships.

Day-of signups for the Labor Day Pier Swim will be held at 7:30 a.m.

The first heat takes off at 8 a.m.