According to local lore, an unofficial event involving crawling over and swimming around rocks, strolling beautiful beaches and finding hidden coves takes place around this time of year.
Supposedly, the Laguna Beach Aquathon is set for Sunday, Oct. 2, though, in the past organizers have issued a last-minute mock announcement canceling the event online and on the sand even as participants disregard the formalities and wade into the water or start their hike south. Planners chose the date to take advantage of a super low, draining tide predicted by 5 p.m. Sunday. Water temperatures will be below 65 degrees, but the air temperature a balmy 72 degrees.
The low tide will make it possible to do more walking than swimming along the roughly eight mile route. Organizer Gary Cogorno advised walking as much as possible in an email because, as he says, there have been “way too many shark sightings in the area.” He called the May 29 shark attack in Corona del Mar suffered by 52 year-old tri-athlete Maria Korcsmaros, a “reality check.”
According to the Aquathon website, four local guys started making jaunts in 1986 from Emerald Bay to Irvine Cove and Crescent Bay. As an end of summer celebration, they decided to explore the entire coast of Laguna Beach, which back then ended at Victoria Beach. The next year they repeated the trip and capped it off with beers at Gina’s Pizza in Boat Canyon.
So far, Cogorno says about 50 folks committed to the “possibly interested list,” but he thinks there could be twice as many. “Competent swimmers come from all over,” he said noting, “the danger is minimized by the beauty of the homes, rocks, cliffs and the ocean.”
Some years, the Aquathoners made rest stops along the way at places such as The Penguin Café, Montage resort and Coyote Grill and sometimes lunch was packed in to Victoria Beach by willing volunteers.
This year, Cogorno says the intrepid hikers (and swimmers) will have to “nourish themselves with Goo and waterproof snacks” as Montage managers have opted out and the snack bar at Aliso Beach, where parking is suggested, will be closed.
After parking in the Aliso Beach lot, Cogorno suggests participants take public transit to the starting point at Emerald Bay. Those making it to the end of the route, at 10th Street Beach, can hop the trolley back to Aliso Beach and cross the highway for a survivors party at The Ranch.
In 1988 as the boundaries of Laguna Beach expanded south to Three Arch Bay, so did the Aquathon route. It was later extended to the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, where early Aquathoners doused their aching muscles in a bubbling Jacuzzi.
That year, the number of participants increased thanks to a flyer sent around to locals who had previously expressed interest in joining the band of adventure seekers. Three well-known Laguna Beach watermen joined that year, including Cogorno.
Additions to the ritual came in the form of a buddy system and prayer in 1993. Today, some come just to hear the ode to the sea delivered by Nubie Sears, a veteran Aquathoner, who is expected to deliver this year’s quasi benediction, if all goes according to plan.
A $20 entrance fee covers expenses and makes possible donations to local organizations, which the Aquathon founding fathers hold dear. Last year, the Junior Lifeguard program was awarded $2,500 and Zero Trash and the Ocean Institute’s educational programs each received $1,000.
Those still working on their swimming skills and others who cannot attend can purchase an Aquathon T-shirt at Victory Koredry.com.