OCEANSIDE — This Labor Day more than 500 swimmers are expected to take part in the 88th annual swim around Oceanside Pier. The 1.1-mile open-water swim is a bucket list item for many participants who range in age from 12 to 73 and beyond.
The yearly swim is a draw to open-water swimmers and faithful locals.
Carrie Chacon, Oceanside Swim Club president, said turnout for the swim depends on the weather and water conditions, with more day-of signups happening when it is sunny with calm seas.
Rules do not allow swimmers to wear swim fins or wetsuits. They must face water temperatures, sea conditions and the demanding distance.
Once swimmers hit the water, one of the biggest challenges is the unpredictable ocean currents. Last year currents had little effect on swimmers, the year before there was a strong current that pulled swimmers north of their mark.
Mother Nature makes it a different race every year.
Members of the Oceanside Swim Club will be competing with hundreds of other swimmers for best finish times. Racers are clocked with a timing chip they receive at check-in.
The event recognizes the top three finishers in each age group category as well as the best male and female overall finish times. Top swimmers complete the race in about 17 minutes.
“It’s all based on time,” Chacon said.
Spectators can get a good view of the race from the pier, or catch swimmers running across the on-shore finish line on the north side of the pier.
“It’s always fun to watch it from the pier,” Chacon said. “I love being at the finish line. You see people who have never done it before doing it for the first time, or others beating their personal time.”
Oceanside Lifeguards will be out in extra numbers to monitor and assist swimmers. Many are stationed in the water along the swim route.
“The lifeguards are excellent,” Chacon said.
Since the annual swim began in 1929 the Oceanside Pier has been rebuilt three times following damage by heavy winds and rains. The pier was rebuilt in 1927, 1946 and 1988, and three additional times prior to the first pier swim.
Proceeds from the Labor Day Pier Swim benefit the Oceanside Swim Club. The nonprofit swim club serves kids age 5 to 18, and meets at the Brooks Street city pool. The swim club uses 50 percent of funds raised to award scholarships to kids whose families cannot afford club registration fees.
“We offer competitive swim to all,” Chacon said. “It’s important when you live on the coast to know how to swim. We want to get kids in the water.”
Day of registration opens at 7 a.m. The first heat hits the water at 8:15 a.m. Sept. 4.