catalina channel swim

A Long Beach lifeguard boat welcomes PJ Desoto and Spencer Allen on Saturday after they completed a paddle from Catalina Island to Long Beach.

As summer wraps up and students are heading back to school virtual or otherwise, the classic question “What did you do for your summer vacation?" may have limited answers in our stay-at-home world. It turns out Long Beach’s on the water community didn’t sit at home on the couch binge watching the latest shows.

Catalina Crossing

Two junior lifeguard instructors, PJ Desoto and Spencer Allen paddled from Catalina to Ballast Point on Saturday, Aug. 29. They left Avalon at 4 a.m. and it took just under 6 hours for the duo to tag team it — one hour on, one hour off — to Alamitos Bay.

The pair trained for five weeks; after work, they would paddle the 10-foot. 6-inch conditioning boards around the Naples canal. For the actual crossing they used a 14-foot board that glides through the water a bit easier. The Bob Blair family trailed the lifeguards with their boat, offering hot showers and creature comforts.

Spencer’s dad Will Allen was still pumped from the adventure when he said, “I started my day at 2:45 a.m. The boys started paddling at approximately 4 a.m. I was in an 18-foot Whaler with my sister Betsy. We led the way in the dark so they knew where to point. At the end, some of Spencer’s lifeguard homies surprised us with an escort down the jetty and Spencer used the arch of the water cannon as the finish line. It was really fun to do it with Bob Blair...  he knows that channel as well as anyone.”

Spencer Allen said the he and Desoto came up with the ambitious goal when paddling by oil island Chaffee this summer. Now that they have reached it, what’s next?

“We plan to do it again, but next time we will paddle side by side and each make the crossing solo.”

Virtual Transpacific Crossing

Too bad Allen and Desoto were not part of the Aquatic Capital of America (ACOA) virtual Long Beach to Honolulu fundraiser. The “on your honor” logging of yards swam, paddled or rowed event raised money for educating and waterproofing at-risk youth, while encouraging swimmers, rowers and paddlers to get back in the water and compete with friends for the entire month of August.

At press time, there were 259 participants who logged in more than 13,500,000 yards (7,713 miles). There were 132 Long Beach participants, 102 from California cities other than Long Beach, 15 states represented and one participant from France.

The distance between Long Beach, Calif., and Honolulu, Hawaii, is 2,558 miles. So the participants were able to exceed all goals and rumor has it a large contingent are sitting in Maui with former Long Beach City Councilman Rob Webb watching the sunset. There were 167 swimmers, 65 paddlers, 55 rowers and two lifeguards in the four divisions.


ACOA expressed gratitude to :

• Bruce MacRae for his videos at the start, mid-point when he did a touching tribute to Angela Madsen who died while attempting a solo journey from Long Beach to Hawaii, and when the total yards got the group to Hawaii the first time.

• Rob Webb for his videos welcoming participants to Hawaii at the end of the first leg, and when the group overshot Kaanapali Shores with one day left.

Co-Event director Ryan Fox said the MacRae videos got more than 1 million views, compared to our usual traffic in the hundreds, so he gave a huge boost in visibility to the organization.

“It's been amazing to see how many people joined in on this adventure, and how dedicated they all have been. I believe about 15 people recorded activity for all 31 days! “ co-event director Lucy Johnson added.

No binge-watching on the couch for these folks.

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