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SWIM Long Beach Rules The Waves in the 73rd Huntington Beach Pier Swim

73 years ago, the annual Huntington Beach Pier Swim began as it has always been since in the coastal community known as Surf City USA.

From running into the crashing surf, sprinting around the long pier, and bodysurfing into the finish, the 300 or so participants carried on the Surf City tradition started by Huntington Beach lifeguard Gene Belshe.

The swim around the pier attracts up to 300 people; about half are local and half come from all over the place,” said race director John Valinsky. “Sometimes, it is cancelled because of big waves. Gene started it as a kid’s race and now we have 16 age divisions. Even when the race is not cancelled by big waves, we still have to save [help] up to 50 people in a race as they get pulled through the pier. Ten years ago, we started the Legends Division, a new division for those swimmers over 65 years old. There are more swimmers of this age nowadays.”

Swim Long Beach, led by frequent winner Hank Wise, again won the Gene Belshe Memorial Perpetual Trophy as the high-scoring team. He summed up today’s event, “It’s righteous when our adult masters team comes together to work towards a common goal.

We’ve had that synergy and sense of purpose for quite a while as we’ve been preparing for the HB Pier Swim, our Catalina Channel relays, and the 2024 USMS Masters (Pool) National Championships at Mission Viejo.

We train together, pacing, racing, and pushing each other, and then go have coffee after practices.

We carry our SWIM Long Beach Banner as high as possible on game day – whether in the pool or salt water.

Many on our team prefer to race and strive in the open water, using the pool mostly for our baseline fitness.

Today SWIM Long Beach had a strong showing – winning three age groups, two of the three heats, achieved 1-2-3 sweep in one age group (Hank Wise in 9:39, Jeff Wheeler in 10:30, and Graham Berkhold in 10:33), and picked up a few extra points with a bonus second or third in two age groups under light winds, 62 to 64°F water in a rising tide with the surf 2 to 3 feet.

The fastest swimmer on the Swim Long Beach team and the overall winner was 28-year-old Ben Brewer, a career coast guard and competitive ocean prone paddler originally from Santa Barbara. Brewer was followed by 42-year-old Robert Margalis and 8 hour 35 minute Catalina Channel swimmer Derrick Wong.

Brewer swam distance freestyle events in the pool for California Lutheran University. Wise observed, “It’s so awesome when we get these fast pool swimmers who are building into becoming open ocean watermen…the ocean is so free, so challenging and so alive. These post college swimmers join our team and just thrive. It really ain’t about all the wins, it’s about the ocean, the beach and our team. Every so often though, a team win feels good and exciting.”

SWIM Long Beach swims in the ocean year round with a no-wetsuit policy. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they are in the pool with Thursdays hitting the ocean in Seal Beach.

© 2024 Daily News of Open Water Swimming

to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture beyond the shoreline

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