High school swimmers rescued off La Jolla

LA JOLLA — San Diego lifeguards rescued 20 Moreno Valley-area high school swim team members from the ocean off La Jolla Tuesday when they had trouble making a long-distance swim.

One student was taken to a hospital and was expected to be released, and paramedics treated at least seven others who swallowed too much water or became chilled.

The mass rescue involved 62 swimmers from Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley

Lifeguards had given an ocean safety talk to the students and coaches before they set out from La Jolla Cove to swim toward a buoy a half-mile out into the ocean, lifeguard Lt. John Sandmeyer said.

As the dozens of swimmers set off, some ran into difficulties because of the gusting winds and choppy surf. Some drifted north and were rescued close to La Jolla Shores about 1 p.m. The water was about 59 degrees, and the waves were about 2 to 4 feet tall, and winds gusted from 11.5 to 17 mph, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Lee Swanson said.

Lifeguards helped 20 students back to the beach between the Cove and the Shores and additional swimmers straggled to shore wherever they could. They were gathered at Kellogg Park and all were accounted for, Swanson said.

He said most of the swimmers were fine, and were showering on the beach before joining the others.

Lifeguards coordinated with coaches who had a list of all the students as they confirmed that each swimmer was safe.



  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest

    Let's let Dan from La Jolla give us his input...but I agree with what Neik said above...wondering how experienced lifeguards could not spot the difficiencies of the swimmers... a couple of shorter test swims in different conditions would have sorted this out with some watchful eyes of school coaches and lifeguards...pretty strange...but maybe pool swimmers "only" is the problem...not sure since I was the other way around...


    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    As a lifeguard, the thought of multiple swimmers in trouble like this gives me a tummy ache!


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    That's a LOT of people to supervise! Granted, they're on a swim team so perhaps it was reasonable to suppose that they could handle more than the average swimmer. But combine cold temps, surf, and currents, and things get dicey even for strong pool swimmers not used to such conditions. I was in an ocean mile last year that felt pretty scary even though I have o.w. experience.

  • MikeHMikeH Member

    What the hell - who was supervising these kids? It sounds like whomever that was didn't know what they were doing. A 59 degree open water swim isn't something to wing on a hope and a prayer if you aren't prepared specifically for it.

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    A lot of kids who swim on their HS team are not club swimmers. I've guarded plenty of HS meets and I wouldn't send 80% of those kids out in the ocean. If you've been to many OWS that allow kids, you will see some percentage of them be overwhelmed enough by the difference between pool and OW that they will quit or have to be rescued, even though they can dish out a whoopin' in the pool. It's up to the coaches to prepare their swimmers to get outside the box and not just assume that because a kid went to state champs, s/he is going to be fine out in the open.


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    In fact, I recall a swim I took with a young lady (HS senior, bound for college swim team) across our harbor. She's considerably faster than me in the pool, so I was surprised that she didn't drop me right away. Then she slid back by my hip and I figured she was comfortable following. I kept thinking she was right there because I could feel her wake, then I looked over and noticed she'd been replaced by a seal. I checked back and one of the kayakers was with her, so I went on across, following the main escort boat. I was below deck getting changed when she swam up, shrieking in terror. I went up to see what was going on and she was surrounded by seals. I almost jumped back in, since it looked like fun... but she was terrified.

    EW! Something touched my leg! OMG!


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member
    edited April 2016

    I happened to be there that day and watched it all from above.

    As is often the case (and the older I get and more I experience with media, it seems always the case), news coverage is spotty and inaccurate! Gotta hype up the story!

    There wasn't any current. It was a bit choppy (mostly left over from day before), maybe 6-12inches, wasn't that windy (definitely not "10-15kts"!), and no waves at the Cove. But, 59 degree water was the main factor that created the problem for the few swimmers that were assisted (and I use "assisted" purposely because "rescue" has a stronger connotation, and that's not what I perceived). I was an ocean LG. I know they count any contact as "rescue".

    Having said all that, they certainly didn't have adequate support themselves. Rather, (and in contrast to official statements), LGs gave them a briefing (LGs may have suggested they not go in, but if they felt that strongly about it, they could've disallowed it), and they formed a plan for any swimmer(s) needing help or fellow swimmers to stop and raise hand to signal.

    For me and the groups I coordinate, that's the line. If I need LG assistance, than I didn't have enough support planned on my own.

    So, they certainly didn't prepare accordingly or sufficiently.

    However, all but a few were fine. They swam across and did well. There were several stragglers from the beginning who didn't get far, maybe around 1/4 mile buoy, and got rides back in to Cove (where they started) on LG paddle boards.

    So, it wasn't a big, frantic rescue operation. Those that were pulled were all fine upon exit, meaning they didn't need any assistance rewarming.

    There were a few on the other side who received some attention for short time and then were fine.

    So, I'm not excusing the staff for their less than adequate safety plan. But, "averted a disaster" is a bit hyperbolic.

  • Dan Simonelli ruining a good story with the facts. :-)

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNMember

    I grew up in this area of SoCal and Moreno Valley is very much an inland town and about 90+ minute drive from San Diego. I can almost guarantee most of these kids don't hit the ocean very often, let alone in sinter/spring. While I think the coach was probably trying something fun and different for his team, it doesn't' sound like it was a well-thought out plan, eh?

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