Swimming with the Ocean Ducks at Goleta Beach

Swimming with the Ocean Ducks at Goleta Beach


The blog has been rather text-heavy lately. This post should fix that.

The Santa Barbara Ocean Ducks gather Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Goleta Beach County Park, and Sundays at Butterfly Beach in Montecito (plus Saturdays in the summer). It’s a diverse, friendly group of folks, and even this late in the year you can expect to see 8-10 of us in the water during the week; more on the weekends.

Goleta Beach

Typically we head out in groups of 2 or 3 according to speed. There are a variety of possible swim routes. Here’s one of my favorites (click to enlarge):

Goleta Beach to Campus Point

From our meeting place next to the shower head (west of the restaurant and pier, east of the restroom), we make our way beyond the surf line, 100-150m offshore. Then we turn right, towards UC Santa Barbara and Campus Point. On the outbound trip, we try to maintain a constant distance from shore as we bend around the cove. In the image above I’ve noted four intermediate landmarks, which offer convenient turning-back points if someone is in a hurry.

End of the Beach

The Rock

The Waterfall

The Stairs

The full trip to the east side of Campus Point is approximately 1800m. As seen on the satellite image, this location is actually a “false” point, beyond which there is a small cove that bends into the “true” Point. Usually the false point (or even a little before) offers a better turn-around spot, to avoid rocks and surfers – especially on big W or SW swells. Even on flat-ish days there’s often a nice little right-breaking wave at the Point – perfect for a bodysurfing interlude.

On the return trip we aim for a straight-line trip across the cove. If done correctly, this shaves 300m off the outbound distance. The north side of the pier (where it intersects with the beach) is the best sighting landmark. I usually make the 3300m (2-mile) round-trip in a little under an hour, including a bodysurfing break.

Here’s a short video I took near “the rock”:

It’s a beautiful little swim. There’s an occasional kelp patch to dodge, and perhaps a lone seal or pod of dolphins out for lunch; but for the most part, not much in the way of sea-flora or fauna.

A couple gratuitous Google Earth views of the swim:

From the West

From the East

Interesting historical note: this swim route partially retraces a favorite workout of Lynne Cox, a 1979 graduate of UC Santa Barbara. According to her memoir Swimming to Antarctica, Lynne would swim from the Goleta pier to Campus Point, then on to the next point (Coal Oil Point), and back – a 6.5-mile round trip.

Lynne Cox's route

I guess I need to find a paddler!

6 Responses to “Swimming with the Ocean Ducks at Goleta Beach”

  1. Chicken O'Sea

    2011-11-19T07:40:42+00:00

    That’s beautiful. Hope to swim it one day!

    Reply
  2. Donal

    2011-11-19T10:42:16+00:00

    I love this post. I love to see other people’s swim spots.

    Reply
  3. Janet

    2011-11-19T13:00:47+00:00

    What a nice place to have as your regular swim spot! What’s the water clarity like? Can you see the bottom as you swim along?

    Reply
    • Evan

      2011-11-19T15:11:06+00:00

      Hi Janet! The clarity varies quite a bit. Some days (yesterday, for instance) it’s spectacularly clear – 15 or 20 feet. You can see kelp columns going all the way down to the sandy bottom. Most of the time, though, I just close my eyes – I tend to think everything is a shark. They do occasionally catch blue sharks off the Goleta pier, too!

      Reply
  4. Maryann Mendoza

    2013-09-23T16:41:52+00:00

    What times do you swim during the week?
    Maryann

    Reply

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