La Jolla Rough Water Gatorman 2015

Is anyone doing this on Sept. 13?

Any veterans with tips for the 3mi course, such as landmarks to use for sighting?



  • ttriventtriven Senior Member

    I can't do it this year and I've only done it once. Someone can chime in on the landmark - that's a good question. Technically I think it's the pier but I found it hard to see. There were balloon markers, but sometimes they fall over. There are usually two buoys near the end of the pier, you make two left shoulder turns, and swim home in less sheltered water. They should tell you at the race meeting. Let's see, don't take off behind the 18 year old who swims fast but only sights using a random breaststroke pull and kick. Save something for the way back, the 2nd half was rougher than the first. Lots of kelp in beginning and end.

  • lakespraylakespray Senior Member
    edited August 2015

    @marlin, I'm planning on being there. But first I have a little side trip in Chicago on Saturday morning the 12th swimming the Big Shoulders 5K, then hopping a plane to San Diego that afternoon.

    FYI - I think this will be about my 8th La Jolla Gatorman.

    I always like to know what a swimmers goal is, for example finish under the cutoff of 1:45, place in the top 10 overall, place in age group (which is?) etc.?

    General Tips:

    • The start of this race can be crazy, plenty of youtube videos documenting this. If your trying to be competitive then your going to need to duke it out a bit to get into a good drafting pack, if that is not your goal, I suggest holding back a bit.

    • If possible scout swim a little a day or two before, there are some geographic features on bluffs behind the Scripps pier that you can check. Also scout how the buildings looking back at the cove from the water for the return trip. If possible do this around 1 to 2 PM in the afternoon so Sun angle is approximately the same as race time.

    • That being said I rarely lift up to navigate on the outbound leg (towards the Pier) just enough to confirm the swim pack I'm in, is not doing anything crazy. Remember your swimming with 500 of your closest friends ;-) they generally are going in the right direction. As you near the pier you should start seeing the turn buoy off the end of the pier. (note it's like two buoy's with a about 100 meter lane rope type thing stretched between them so you don't run into out-bounders right off the bat)

    • Coming back the navigation gets more difficult, your heading south, there will likely be a bit of sun glare. The field is now much more spread out you may find yourself alone or with just a few other swimmers. Some swimmers will have paddlers with them, nothing says you can't use them for your own navigation. Hopefully from the previous days scouting you know what buildings to fix on coming back from the pier.

    Have fun, it's a great race.


  • JustSwimJustSwim Senior Member

    I am with Ken on the going out part. I tend to find a pack and sight off them. If I have to move up packs then I tend to sight on their heads. There are always folks to follow on the way out. About half way across the pier becomes pretty easy to see.
    Coming back to the cove their is a grouping of 3 palm tress on the west side of the bluff over the cove that can be seen for a ways. As you get closer there is a mid-rise building (maybe 20 stories tall) that can be used to sight smack dab into the center of the beach in the cove.
    If you can I would follow Ken suggestion and hit the cove the day before and try to figure out the sight lines.
    I've done the Roughwater maybe 10+ times but this will be only my 3rd Gatorman.

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    Haven't done the race, but I've swam the Scripps Pier/La Jolla Cove loop scores of times. One tip: If you're not used to them, the floating kelp beds will startle you. Some are so thick, they're like floating islands, requiring the "other front crawl" stroke...


    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • Thank you for your replies!

    My current swim fitness:
    In August I swam a 2.4 mi race in a lake (1hr12+) on a rectangular course w/o drafting.

    My weekly yardage right now is around 18k+ (SCY mostly), swimming 5 days a week and mixes in a weekly ocean swim (approx. 1 mi per week).
    Most of my pool sessions are 4k SCY in various configurations with one day a week longer (e.g. 5x1000).
    Some days I will swim a mi. in the ocean and then hit the pool for another 4k. A weekly set this summer has been 40 or 50 x 100 on 1:40 (SCY, arriving on 1:30).

    So...the point of this data is that I hope this preparation is adequate for completing the Gatorman in under 1hr45. I'm not sure how much sighting and navigation and chop will impact my time.

  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    Sighting/navigation is paramount for this swim.
    Because there are no bouys or other navigational aids along the way, and because of the curvature of the coastline, it's deceiving.
    Most (90+%), including the leaders and any escorts they may have (even lifeguards on paddkeboards; they don't know the line either as they don't swim it), most often go too wide, both ways going out and going back.

    I swim there almost everyday and have done pier trips many times, including helping others with this sighting (both for Gatorman and the LJCSC Pier To Cove event and using GPS to test sighting points.

    So, this (as best as can be described here rather than being there) is what I've found to be the best line:

    A 1/4 mile from the Cove start there are two white stick buoys (a taller one, the "A" buoy, on the left and a shorter one (closer to the "1/4 Mile" white round ball buoy) on the right. Go through the middle, though slightly closer to the A buoy.

    As you get about half way (marked on the LJ Shores beach by the end of the orange roof buildings) you can start to use a white bldg on the ridge behind the end of the pier. You should keep a small space between them until you can start to sight on the event buoys at the pier.

    Coming back, the most prominent bldg (rectangular condo bldg) is your first easy sighting point. However, sight behind you too back to the pier for the first 1/3 back to be sure you're not going out too far wide (which is all too common).
    There is also a taller pinkish bldg to the left of the condo bldg.
    Between these two markers is the Cove.

    Once you get to the orange roof bldg on the beach, keep sighting on the middle (open sky) between the two bldgs, and you'll also start looking for the "A" white stick bouy (which you can line up with the yellow/white lifeguard tower on the right side of the Cove beach, which is easier to see), and aim for the same line staying inside the A buoy.
    (Note: there is another white stick buoy, "B" bouy, which is .18 mile outside the "A" buoy, that people often confuse because they come back too wide and they mix up the B with the A. But, if you're using the middle space between the bldgs as described, that won't be an issue).

    Another note:
    There are several rather large kelp patches before and after the A buoy, especially exposed during low tide, which it will be around this time.
    So, it would be ideal to scout those out the day before, around the same time, so you can try to avoid as best as possible.

    Not easy to make all this clear here...but I hope this helps.

  • Great info... Thank you!

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    I'm here!!!

    Dan, I'm really grateful for that post. Every year I misnavigate my way back. I'll do exactly what you suggested.

  • How did your races go?
    I opted to do the 1mi because I did not feel I was ready to for Gatorman (I was expecting colder water temps and far rougher water). The cove was like a pool! Seemed like 75F and calm.
    First time I've done LJRWS and look forward to trying Gatorman next year.

    @Dan and everyone who contributed... yes, great advice. I will refer to thread again for next time.

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    I really enjoyed the water this year, though if it had been high 60s it would have been even better. Conditions were perfect! Even visibility was better than in previous years. I saw a diverse posse of tropical fish and even a seal. There was very little kelp; the most surprising piece of it was just at the turnaround buoy. It was very strangely shaped--it looked like a woman floating on her back. I almost started shrieking that I found a body (clearly, I've been watching too much PBS Mystery). I don't know if anyone else saw it...

    On the way back, remembering the misnavigations of yesteryear, I sighted every six (!) strokes on the condo building. It was all I could see and it worked out fine.

    I was not dismayed not to have finished within the allotted 1:45.

  • KNicholasKNicholas ArizonaCharter Member

    I've been a big fan of this open water swim for the last 20 years and cannot say enough about how enjoyable it is year after year. Absolutely a good launching the pad for future marathon swims. It doesn't have the "marathon" swimmers feel because the start is packed with swimmers and jockeying for position the first quarter mile can be rough. Marathon swims have a solo feel typically. The conditions of this swim were fantastic this year. So many good people and volunteers involved in the organization. Watching the young kids circle the 250 yd triangular course makes you think those little guys will soon be swimming to the pier and back (Gatorman) and even farther. High high high recommendations if you are not afraid of crowds and want to dip your toe into a long swim that will take you over an hour.

  • @heart
    What happens if you do not finish within 1 hr 45?
    Do they wait for you, or...?

  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member

    In previous years, they just let you finish. You don't get the fancy medal and the t-shirt, but just the usual medal. This year, apparently, there was a new policy: the guards in the motorboat met me in the water at 3:15 on the dot, actually ordered me out of the water despite my (polite but spirited) protest that I was perfectly fine and nearly done (I was 400y from the finish line), shuttled me 300y forward in the boat, then let me swim the remaining 100y.

    I was rather annoyed and felt humiliated--I was feeling absolutely fine, the race was over, and it would take me no more than 10 mins to finish--but after I got out of the water I decided to put the unpleasantness behind me. I got to spend a beautiful day in the water, see a fantastic array of fish and kelp, and enjoy stunning scenery. In the grand scheme of things, it was not a big deal.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    I can totally understand that. I had one DNF where they stopped me about a quarter mile from being done and said they were sweeping the course in about 5 minutes and would I like to just swim in to the finish? I didn't get the feeling it was a question, but I couldn't honestly complete a quarter mile in 5 minutes, so I was pretty much okay with the question/command. Conditions had been pretty hard and I was dealing w/ some foot cramps, so I had no wish to protest.

    In the Valley Forge swim, the kayaker and the police/fire rescue people didn't force the issue... they counseled me to stop but when I said I wanted to keep going, they worked with me... but I quickly realized that I was at the end of my rope and chose to stop and accept the boat ride. (And there was no question of dropping me off a hundred yards from the finish to swim in--I somehow think that would have been more galling than simply being shuttled in the rest of the way, as I was.)

    In both cases, the officials handled the matter more tactfully/respectfully than it sounds like in your case, and in both cases, they were most welcoming and supportive at the finish.

    I'm glad you were able to put it behind you, though! The coolness of doing what we're doing so far outweighs the bits of negativity! In both of my instances, I went away overall feeling good about my effort, no matter.

    heart said:
    This year, ... the guards in the motorboat met me in the water at 3:15 on the dot, actually ordered me out of the water despite my (polite but spirited) protest that I was perfectly fine and nearly done (I was 400y from the finish line), shuttled me 300y forward in the boat, then let me swim the remaining 100y.

    I was rather annoyed and felt humiliated--I was feeling absolutely fine, the race was over, and it would take me no more than 10 mins to finish--but after I got out of the water I decided to put the unpleasantness behind me.

  • @heart It's great that you did it.
    I can understand the feeling regarding the boat but I suspect it's for liability reasons and how long they're permitted by the city to close the course and beach.
    I don't regret my decision to just do the one mile this year but I definitely envy you and hope the conditions are so nice next year.
    I agree with @dpm50...Congratulations on completing the Gatorman!

Sign In or Register to comment.