Despite restrictions and stay-at-home orders, water-loving residents have found a way to enjoy the sports and activities they have passion for while maintaining safety guidelines.
Lifelong swimmer Kaia Hedlund explained, “Swimming, water soothes my soul and makes me healthy, happy and sane. How lucky am I to live in Long Beach?”
Hedlund is part of Long Beach State Masters, a group that normally swims in the University’s pool, and in summer months, gather for weekend ocean swims. “I am and have always been a water baby.”
She noted that last March, the Long Beach State pool closed with only a day’s notice. Then, after just one swim at the local Belmont, it closed too. The next day, the Long Beach YMCA pool closed.
Finding a way, two regulars on the Long Beach State Master’s team, Julie Ruhlin and Anita Correa, found an alternative in the chilly waters of Alamitos Bay.
One by one, the others, out of desperation, found the courage in May to join in for the daily early morning bay swims. Nature presented red tides, fluctuations of even colder water, storm runoff, and pea soup fog, but the group saw these only as challenges to be overcome. They donned bright caps and chose careful routes to avoid the rowers and paddlers, who also stake claim to the bay.
This summer, the Long Beach Aquatic Capital of America cancelled the Naples Island Swim, and created a virtual Swim to Hawaii, competition style. The Long Beach State Masters coined the moniker “Pandemic Desperados,” and kept on swimming seven days a week.
As a team, the Desperados logged more than 400 miles, with team captain Anita topping 100,500 yards in August alone.
As fall approached, the water got cold again, and "real swimmers don't wear wetsuits" morphed into "which wetsuits are best for swimming?” According to Hedlund, “The Desperados looked like a gang of baby seals.”
The holiday season brought our famous trees on the bay, and a new reason to swim at night. The group suited up, lit up with glow sticks and Christmas lights, and waded into the chilly water one December evening, accompanied by a sea lion and two dolphins.
Hedlund summarized her feelings with “The water is where I go to create, mourn and celebrate. It is important to me and to many others to have access to the water.”
I’m glad they found a way.
The swimmers are enjoying their time in the water — and the cruise ship fans are missing their time on the water. Long Beach residents have been tracking passenger ships as they linger in the outer harbor of the Port of Long Beach.
A total of 34 cruise ships have been sold or scrapped off in the last few months, according to FleetMon. Countless cruises have been cancelled. To relieve some of the hunger pangs, cruisers have been conducting online events.
For example, Alchemy Bar Drinking Society (named after the popular drinking hole on board Carnival ships) has been hosting weekly happier hours on line, telling cruise stories and exchanging recipes.
But by far, one of the most passionate groups are the “Duck People.” They are cruisers into towel animal creations, napkin folding, and filling suitcases with cruising ducks to hide on board during their cruise.
A few years back, passengers on cruise ships began hiding ducks for other passengers to find. It has become wildly popular — so much that on-board gift shops have been stocking the rubber creatures.
Folks buy or make ducks, then hide them around the ship for others to find. The ducks are customized with tags instructing the finder to “Keep or hide — you decide”. People make duck-themed door signs, order special T-shirts, plan duck-themed toga parties, and participate in Christmas ornament exchanges all related to the cruising duck culture.
There are folks who have been crocheting ducks for months in anticipation for their cruises while others ordered wholesale qualities of rubber duckies.
With cruises cancelled, cruisers have created massive on-line gift exchanges. So instead of hiding ducks they are mailing packages of ducks and duck-related gear to one another. We are all just “finding a way” to get a dose of being on and in the water.