Susie Bender Paul - Around Coronado Island

Glorietta Bay Park to Gator Beach

18.6 km (11.6 miles)

4 hours, 52 minutes on 30 September 2020

Observed and documented by Dan Simonelli



  • Name: Susie Bender Paul
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 48
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: Phoenix, Arizona

Support Personnel

  • Dan Simonelli - observer / kayaker
  • Mike Paul - kayaker

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: One porous swimsuit, one cap, goggles.

Route Definition

Glorietta Bay Park, counter-clockwise around Zuniga Jetty and Coronado Island, to Gator Beach @ Avenida Lunar.

  • Body of Water: San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Glorietta Bay Park (32.675060, -117.167979)
  • Finish Location: Gator Beach @ Avenida Lunar (32.673774, -117.172072)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 18.6 km (11.6 miles) (map)


Swim Data

  • Start: 30 September 2020, 09:46:00 (Pacific Daylight, America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
  • Finish: 30 September 2020, 14:38:01
  • Elapsed: 4 hours, 52 minutes, 1 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 65 72
Air Temp (F) 75 84
Wind (knots) calm 6-10

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Every 30 minutes: CarboPro, Clif Blok energy chews.

Observer Log

Download PDF


by Susie Bender Paul

Growing up, I spent a few weeks of my summers in San Diego like most “Zonies” looking to escape the desert heat. I spent the days in the ocean boogie boarding and swimming. Summer has always been my favorite time of year and I absolutely love the ocean. Like a lot of folks, adult responsibilities sometimes shift us away from what we love. Juggling my husband’s career and mine has been challenging and has sometimes moved us far away from the southwest and the ocean but somehow we always find our way back to Arizona. In April of 2019, on a flight home from a business trip, my plane lost two out of three hydraulic systems (which were needed for landing). It was 30 minutes of sheer terror, dumping fuel over the desert, watching the flight attendants try to prepare us for a “very difficult landing” and contemplating my life and potential death in a plane. We landed safely but I was pretty shaken from that experience. Those things change a person. It helped me to slowly realign my priorities and focus on what is really important.

A few months later, my employer approached me to manage an account in San Diego. YES. This meant monthly trips to San Diego! This gave me the opportunity to be in the ocean again. Looking at the ocean always conjures up so many questions like, how far could I swim? Could I swim from point A to point B? Is it safe? What are the currents like? Despite my years as a kid boogie boarding, I had zero experience as an adult swimming in the ocean.

Over the last year, I’ve eliminated some toxic friendships, gave up alcohol and adopted a vegetarian diet. I’ve lost 40lbs and have a new appreciation for swimming and a very clear view of how I want to live the rest of my life. 2020 has been a challenging year on a lot of fronts but Covid offered the chance to slow down, rest my shoulders and start some much needed physical therapy to address some weaknesses. Once my team was open, I was more than ready to be back in the water. PT paid off and I started to get strong again. I saw a post on Dan’s page about a possible swim around Coronado Island. This immediately grabbed my attention and I opened up Google Maps to take a look. Could I do this? Do I have enough time to prepare? Having completed a few lakes at SCAR, I felt pretty confident that I could do the distance but the ocean offers a different set of variables that I’m not used to. My swim buddy Erica McClurg and I headed to San Diego for a day away from work and to have fun. We met up with Dan and did a swim in La Jolla Cove. The water was unseasonably cold but it was a good taste of what ocean swimming would be like. I felt great and decided that Coronado was just what I needed. Having Dan pilot the swim then made it an easy decision because of his experience and understanding of the tides, currents and winds. Time to start training.

Since my team re-opened after quarantine in late May, I’ve only missed three practices, twice because I forgot to turn my alarm on. 5:30am practices post quarantine in the intense heat of the Arizona summer are the best time of day. The sun is up, the water is warm and I have awesome teammates. Every practice, I would envision swimming in San Diego Harbor or down the coast of Coronado Beach. I averaged 3000-4000 yards per practice. On weekends, I was able to talk my husband, Mike, into paddle boarding next me while I got reacquainted with open water at Bartlett Lake. Bartlett offers a great buoy line and a long coast line to swim along. I was able to get two long swims there (5+ miles) and a shorter 3 mile swim at Lake Pleasant. My buddy Sam Kramer went out with me to Bartlett which was much appreciated! She is great to pace with!!!

Day of the Swim

We flew into San Diego the night before and stayed downtown. We woke up to an amazing day! No marine layer and calm winds. We met Dan over at the Glorietta Bay boat ramp and got ready to start. I was nervous but excited at the same time. Mike kayaked while Dan piloted. We started out and I felt relaxed and smooth in the water. We passed under the bridge…first milestone done. The winds started to kick up a bit and created a little bit of chop but it really wasn’t bad. Once I understood that jellyfish were not going to be a problem, the next irrational fear that popped up was swimming through San Diego Harbor next to the large tankers and Navy destroyers. I was praying that I wouldn’t get sucked under or into a ship. I realize that this is totally irrational and that I have two kayaks with me for visibility but one feels so small on the surface of the water next to those massive ships. However once I was out there, I was totally fine. My stroke felt strong and even. In practice I breathe only on the left but in open water, I’m super consistent with breathing bilaterally every three strokes. The mental milestones that I set for myself seem to fly by. There goes the convention center….then the Marriott. Soon after Seaport Village went by. On the left, a huge aircraft carrier was docked. While I felt small next to these mammoth ships, all trepidation went out the window and it was exciting to be there.

As we rounded the corner near Point Loma, the water temperature dropped to about 64 and I felt it. I was cold. This was odd given that 64 never bothered me but it finally dawned on me that the weight loss was the culprit. For future swims, I’ll need to focus on acclimating to colder water. Training in the AZ summers does not offer a lot of cold water opportunity. The lakes feel like baths but I’ll figure something out. Lesson learned. As we approached the end of the jetty, the water finally warmed back up which was a welcome relief! My hands were no longer numb and my shoulders loosened a bit. I was getting tired and Dan estimated about an hour to go. No problem. This is where you dig deep. I asked Mike to hang back a bit so I could watch the shoreline. I could feel the push of the swells behind me and kept to my bilateral breathing. Soon the iconic turrets at the Hotel Del appeared. Then I could see the Shores! Before I knew it, Dan was preparing me to head into the beach. The swells were small which was appreciated! Soon the water color went from that gorgeous seafoam green to a gold specked beige. I’m in shallow water and finally put my feet down to feel the sand. I stood up and while I know I was standing up straight, my equilibrium was completely off and I felt like my body was leaning 45 degrees…haha! My friend Lindsay Herf was on the beach filming me coming out of the water. (I was not leaning at 45 degrees). Finished!!!! I did it! It is such a good feeling to set a goal and go accomplish it! Texts starting pouring in from my friends & family who followed on the Tracker.

Post Swim

I felt great post swim, showered off and headed to the airport. I made sure that I was on the left side of the plane so that as we circled out over the ocean and headed east back to Arizona, I would hopefully see Coronado Island in its entirety. And I did! Looking down at the distance that I covered from 10,000 feet was amazing! I swam around that island mass!!!! That was really something to see it like that and it really hit home as to what I had accomplished! The next day I was back at work and tired but felt good. I’ve put in a few recovery swims and the tiredness in my shoulders has dissipated. Its funny how I can swim almost 12 miles with no shoulder pain but sometimes a 3000 yard pool workout will light it up. It all boils down to stroke mechanics and open water offers the chance to just relax, find a rhythm and see where the day takes you.

All in all, it was just an awesome experience!! Thank you Dan for posting the idea and for piloting!!!


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