By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Open Water correspondent
MANHATTAN BEACH, California, August 3. 1,140 swimmers participated in the Pacific Ocean at this weekend's 2-mile Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim in Manhattan Beach, California. Because the swim has significantly grown in popularity, the men and women were separated for the first time since 1962 when the race was founded.
As a result, the viewpoint of the top men and women were as different as Venus and Mars.
"I have been doing this race since I was 14," said 45-year-old Diane Graner Gallas who won the women's race in 48:17 over 16-year-old Marisa Purcell and 18-year-old Taylor Spivey who placed second and third respectfully.
"It was an easy start this year," recalled Gallas, a former national-level swimmer and multiple Pier-to-Pier champion. "Because the men and women were separated, it was an easier than normal. Usually, it is more difficult and is the hardest part of this race. This year, I was able to swim around the [first] pier by myself and swam by myself the entire way. I didn't see any other women around me."
Conversely, Wadley, a local 29-year-old who has one name, who placed second in 45:14, summarized the thoughts of most of the male competitors, "The start was horrible. It was [more difficult] than Ironman. Everyone goes all-out to the pier with such a small window of opportunity. It was a smash fest."
Sean Lemm, a 37-year-old masters swimmers from SCAQ who a bit heated after winning, said, "It was great. The conditions were nice. I tried to stay close to my competitors, including some of the past winners like defending champion Micah Carlson."
The 2-mile course parallel to multi-million homes along the Southern Californian coast was glassy from start to finish. However, the times were significantly slower than past years as the swimmers right straight into a strong southerly current before trying to navigate through constant 2 foot swells at the finish. "It felt like we were swimming an uphill course," said Gallas. "I just swam from man to man against the current."
Unlike the safe 44-second margin of victory earned by Gallas, the lead group of male swimmers came into the surf area together, each with a different strategy. A few put their head down and sprinted while Lemm caught a nice wave, bodysurfed to the shore and ran up the beach with a 9-second cushion over Wadley and third-place Walid Wasfy.
Wasfy from the University of California Irvine, like many other newcomers who helped boost the number of entrants over 1,000 for the first time, shared his passion with others who enjoyed the festive atmosphere after the race. Unfortunately, his conversation was geared to telling people of the Anteaters Swimming and Diving Foundation. UCI dropped its swimming programs last week and Wasfy was spreading the word about raising money for the program.
But as the hundreds of spectators looked on from both piers, 999 swimmers officially completed the 47th edition of the event, ending the race with smiles and a sense of accomplishment.