Mike Mitchell does it for the camaraderie, Matt Mauer is doing it as a life accomplishment. Both will be participating in The Orange 42, a relay race along the 42 miles of Orange County coast from Seal Beach to San Onofre, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3-4. Mitchell and Mauer are members of the Laguna Beach Open Water Swimmers group (LBOWS). They join four other competitive ocean swimmers, also LBOWS members, in the first attempt at this route. “We’ll each swim four times,” said Mitchell who has also done a Catalina relay in which each team member swam six times. The swimmers expect to be in and out of the water for at least 30 hours depending on currents and other conditions.
“It is our objective to be the first to swim the 42 miles of Orange County coast using Catalina Chanel Swimming Federation (CCSF) guidelines,” said team captain and another LBOWS member Tom Hale. Hale said this swim has been “discussed for years” adding that the timing is right. “We want to provide a break from current news and shed light on…[the fact that] we live along some of the most beautiful coastline in the county if not the world.” Hale is organizing and sponsoring The Orange 42.
Federation rules do not allow swimmers to be assisted by artificial aids of any kind. They are permitted to grease the body, use goggles, a cap and a porous swimsuit but not wetsuits. Each team member swims a one-hour “leg” each time they enter the water.
Scott Zornig, Brett Hillyard and Marc Horowitz will round out the Federation mandated six-person team. Ben Mauer will be the official observer. He will be in charge of the timing of the swim, and will be responsible for the interpretation of the rules, including the right to cancel the swim in adverse conditions and/or danger to the swimmers.
Chris Murray will captain The Sycamore, Hale’s 50 -foot catamaran. Taking into consideration currents and tides he’s chosen the shortest route, a straight line from Seal Beach to San Onofre. Not following the crescent-shaped coastline means at times the swimmers will be at least two miles off shore. “I most likely will not sleep,” Murray said. Because it’s difficult to pace the swimmers, moving at one to two miles an hour in a 50-foot vessel, Murray will motor The Sycamore two to three miles ahead of the swimmers, drop anchor and go back to monitor their progress in a smaller boat. Support kayaks will also be in the water near the swimmers to keep an eye out for floating objects and kelp mats. Observer Mauer will go back and forth with Murray between the two boats.
Hale is no stranger to new swimming challenges. In summer 2015 he and his college-bound daughter Faith, and a relay team of four others swam for nearly 20 hours from Catalina Island to Laguna Beach; a route not previous taken by solo or relay swimmers. Faith Hale became the first female lifeguard from Laguna to swim from Catalina to Laguna Beach.
The following year Hale swam the frigid waters of Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains. Also in 2016 he took part in the annual Memphremagog Winter Swim Festival in Newport, Vt. Zornig swam with Hale in a pool cut into the ice on Lake Memphre. Last year Hale competed in the second St. Petersburg, Russia Big Neva Winter Swimming Cup. His performance at the Scandinavian 2017 Winter Championships in Skelleftea, Sweden earned him the invitation to swim in the Neva River event. He has also participated in the Bay to Breakers 10K in San Francisco and swam the bodies of water under three bridges in one day; the Hudson River beneath the Verrazano Bridge in New York, the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego, and the Golden Gate in San Francisco.
Zornig, a San Clemente resident attempted a solo swim of the 42-mile OC coast two decades ago but made it only 15 miles. An LBOWS veteran he has racked up a long list long list of achievements including solo swims to Catalina and around Manhattan Island. He also was the first person to circumnavigate all five islands in Newport Harbor and the first person to swim from Point Loma to Imperial Beach in San Diego County. Zornig is also credited with at least five other “milestone” events the LBOWS webpage which website alerts the community to daily morning swims and occasional get-togethers. The group counts 75 active “non-members” who love swimming and training together and want to promote safe, group swimming in Laguna, the site also says.
Orange 42 team member Marc Horowitz of Dana Point has previous relay experience swimming to Catalina and at Anacapa Island. For Hillyard, a resident of Laguna Beach and a professional photographer who has done triathlons, The Orange 42 will be his first relay. Laguna local and active duty Marine, Matt Mauer will also count The Orange 42 as his first relay. He has done the locally famous Laguna Aquathon and some other endurance swims with Hale. This one he said “should be a little more relaxing.”
Although it’s not likely the swimmers will be noticeable from Main Beach as they pass through Laguna, Zornig says well-wishers, cheerleaders and observers will be able to glimpse The Sycamore and the Orange 42 team from the Seal Beach and Newport Beach piers and as they pass through Dana Point.