THE summer is in full swing here in Southern California – which means our ocean workouts have begun in earnest.
I’m part of a swim programme here in Los Angeles called Tower 26, which was founded and is coached by Gerry Rodrigues, himself a great open water swimmer.
Once the Pacific Ocean gets warm enough (usually around May), Gerry adds Wednesday morning workouts to our weekly prescription. When deciding where to live in the US, this was one of the major attractions for me and the ocean workouts became one of my favourite parts of the week last season. If I’m completely honest, though, that wasn’t always the case… As someone who had limited ocean swimming experience (OK, I’d done some – but nothing like what the Californians are used to) the first few sessions last year absolutely terrified me. Conditions were challenging in those first few weeks with considerable surf and some rip tides and crazy currents, all of which combined to totally “kick my butt”, as our American friends might say.
A typical session usually sees us do a mile or so jog along the beach, enter the water, swim for about eight minutes and then exit the water and run up the beach back to the start point. It’s a workout unlike any other because simply getting in and out of the water – through the “surf line” – can be incredibly challenging. Most pool workouts tax your upper body, but this workout taxes your legs just as much as your arms and shoulders. It’s intense!
It took me a little while to learn some basic oceancraft and learn the best ways through the surf. Learning to dive under an incoming wave at just the right time and hold onto the ocean bed with fingers gripped tightly soon became an invaluable skill! And getting out of the ocean is often just as tricky. You can be swimming alongside someone for hundreds of yards and if you catch a wave in at just the right time then you can easily gain a 30 or 40-yard advantage on them coming out of the water for no extra effort. And the ride in on a wave can be fast and tumultuous!
Learning to read the waves and master the ocean is no easy feat, but I’m glad to report the girl from a landlocked town is making great progress.
Above all else, these workouts are a beautiful way to start the day. What’s not to love about seeing the sunrise from the beach on another stunning Californian summer’s day? Just a couple of weeks ago, a pod of dolphin joined us in our warm up – now that was special.