Laguna Beach swimmers set record in 42-mile open water relay

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Barbra Alvstad paddling a kayak and Tom Hale swimming during the recent Orange 42 relay swim.

The six-man team of Laguna Beach Open Water Swimmers (LBOWS) completed a 42-mile relay from Seal Beach to San Clemente in 27 hours and 11 minutes on Oct. 4 making them the first group to swim the complete length of the Orange County coastline.

Co-captains Scott Haug and Chris Murray steered The Sycamore, swim organizer Tom Hale’s 50-foot catamaran, out of Newport Harbor at 5 a.m. toward Seal Beach where the team-members Hale, Scott Zornig, Brett Hillyard, Marc Horowitz Mike Mitchell and Matt Mauer swam to shore and back to the boat in keeping with Catalina Channel Swimming Federation rules which require all swims to begin and end on land. After motoring the 15 miles to Seal Beach the swim began at 7:45 a.m. in a heavy fog.

“We had less than a quarter-mile of visibility,” Haug said in a phone interview.

The fog intensified the jobs of the observers Audrey Viers, Barbara Alvstad and Cherie Edborg especially around the jetties in Newport and Huntingtin Harbors where boat traffic is amplified.

In addition to the fog, a south swell brought a current the racers had to swim against slowing their pace drastically Haug said. “It took us eight hours to get through Laguna Beach,” Hale said in an email.

At one point the crew on the boat realized they’d run out of water. “Thanks to our LBOWS colleague and Newport Beach lifeguard Brian Buck, who brought us water we were saved from interrupting the race,” Hale said.

“It takes a team to pull off a race like this,” said Haug. Rounding out the Orange 42 team were the spotters in kayaks, Neil Thomson and Hale’s younger brother, Nathan who was on duty for 14 hours straight. Their job is to stay near the swimmers to keep them from swimming into or through things they may not see floating in the water.

Although day two was also foggy, Haug said they caught a break in that there wasn’t much wind. As the sun rose, the crew onboard The Sycamore played a recording of bagpipes to honor the Laguna families who have lost loved ones recently.

By the time the swimmers were heading into Dana Point the fog lifted and the “sea was flat and glassy,” Haug said. Hale called the journey “epic.”

Tom Hale aboard The Sycamore during the recent Orange 42 swim relay.
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