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Labor Day Pier Swim, since 1929

86 Labor Days and counting

Oceanside Pier.
Oceanside Pier.

The modern version of Oceanside Pier was completed in 1987, some 99 years after the first structure jutting into the sea was erected on the spot in 1888. Through the late 1800s and early 1900s, storms sent the pier back to shore where the surviving planks and posts were gathered up for the next effort. By 1927 the fourth structure built extended 1900 feet into the Pacific Ocean as does today’s version.

In the first half of the 20th Century, fishing barges, the predecessors of today’s modern sportfishing fleet, were converted from old vessels and used along the California coast to take anglers deeper into the abundant fishery. There was a barge working from the Oceanside structure, but then, even from the pier, the big broomtail grouper and black seabass that used to haunt the relative shallows were common catches. Sometimes, the fish won. The Los Angeles Times reported in July 1930 that a Mr. C.A. Peddicord took his newly purchased heavy gear down to the pier, pinned on a big mackerel for bait and hooked a large fish. Not being accustomed to the big game tackle, Peddicord buttoned down the drag on the reel, hoisted his leg over the rod butt for leverage and was subsequently hurled over the railing as the fish pulled hard, creating a fulcrum that flung the hapless angler into the sea. Rescuers got to him just before he drowned and neither the fish nor the gear was seen again.

The pier was not only for fishing; it was and is also a gathering place, a spot easy to find and meet up for a day at the beach. Leisurely walks in the afternoon for young couples wooing was also a popular use of the pier in its early days and now. As “bathing” in the ocean became popular beyond the ankle-deep dipping of the 1880s beach crowd, water sports like bodysurfing, board surfing, and open-water swimming grew in popularity. In 1929 the first “pier swim,” where the roughly one-mile course from the beach, around the pier and back, was made in celebration of Labor Day. The swim has gone on now for 86 Labor Days and is considered the longest annual rough-water swim in the West. The swim draws hundreds of people from all levels of ability. The 87th annual Pier Swim will be this Monday at 7 a.m.

Though a community event for swimmers 12 years of age to folks well into their golden years, the swim is not an easy one for most non-seasoned ocean-swimmers, not even on a flat day. Last year’s swim was highlighted by heavy surf and some 300 of the 500 entrants were beaten back to the beach for their efforts. Only those swimmers adept and strong enough made the turn and the return leg, where they, too, were unceremoniously dumped back onto the sand by the large breakers. This year, the long-range predictions look good for a relatively calm ocean and swim.

Past Event

Labor Day Pier Swim

One problem with so many swimmers, regardless of conditions, is traffic. Collisions in swimming can be dangerous, especially in a “foaming pack” of thrusting legs and arms in open seas. For this reason, there are lifeguards posted along the course and rescue craft near. For most, this is an activity and not a race, so hanging back and keeping a clear space is an advisable tactic for those not worried about time. It will take a 17- or 18-minute run for the contenders to win, but some take a leisurely hour to make the trip around the pier. The start will be staged to divide the swimmers into smaller groups and reduce the risk of collisions, even so, know that the outside is better than the inside track for the slower swimmers as those trying to establish a fast time will be on the inside and swimming hard.

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Oceanside Pier.
Oceanside Pier.

The modern version of Oceanside Pier was completed in 1987, some 99 years after the first structure jutting into the sea was erected on the spot in 1888. Through the late 1800s and early 1900s, storms sent the pier back to shore where the surviving planks and posts were gathered up for the next effort. By 1927 the fourth structure built extended 1900 feet into the Pacific Ocean as does today’s version.

In the first half of the 20th Century, fishing barges, the predecessors of today’s modern sportfishing fleet, were converted from old vessels and used along the California coast to take anglers deeper into the abundant fishery. There was a barge working from the Oceanside structure, but then, even from the pier, the big broomtail grouper and black seabass that used to haunt the relative shallows were common catches. Sometimes, the fish won. The Los Angeles Times reported in July 1930 that a Mr. C.A. Peddicord took his newly purchased heavy gear down to the pier, pinned on a big mackerel for bait and hooked a large fish. Not being accustomed to the big game tackle, Peddicord buttoned down the drag on the reel, hoisted his leg over the rod butt for leverage and was subsequently hurled over the railing as the fish pulled hard, creating a fulcrum that flung the hapless angler into the sea. Rescuers got to him just before he drowned and neither the fish nor the gear was seen again.

The pier was not only for fishing; it was and is also a gathering place, a spot easy to find and meet up for a day at the beach. Leisurely walks in the afternoon for young couples wooing was also a popular use of the pier in its early days and now. As “bathing” in the ocean became popular beyond the ankle-deep dipping of the 1880s beach crowd, water sports like bodysurfing, board surfing, and open-water swimming grew in popularity. In 1929 the first “pier swim,” where the roughly one-mile course from the beach, around the pier and back, was made in celebration of Labor Day. The swim has gone on now for 86 Labor Days and is considered the longest annual rough-water swim in the West. The swim draws hundreds of people from all levels of ability. The 87th annual Pier Swim will be this Monday at 7 a.m.

Though a community event for swimmers 12 years of age to folks well into their golden years, the swim is not an easy one for most non-seasoned ocean-swimmers, not even on a flat day. Last year’s swim was highlighted by heavy surf and some 300 of the 500 entrants were beaten back to the beach for their efforts. Only those swimmers adept and strong enough made the turn and the return leg, where they, too, were unceremoniously dumped back onto the sand by the large breakers. This year, the long-range predictions look good for a relatively calm ocean and swim.

Past Event

Labor Day Pier Swim

One problem with so many swimmers, regardless of conditions, is traffic. Collisions in swimming can be dangerous, especially in a “foaming pack” of thrusting legs and arms in open seas. For this reason, there are lifeguards posted along the course and rescue craft near. For most, this is an activity and not a race, so hanging back and keeping a clear space is an advisable tactic for those not worried about time. It will take a 17- or 18-minute run for the contenders to win, but some take a leisurely hour to make the trip around the pier. The start will be staged to divide the swimmers into smaller groups and reduce the risk of collisions, even so, know that the outside is better than the inside track for the slower swimmers as those trying to establish a fast time will be on the inside and swimming hard.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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