SANTA CRUZ, California, October 9. EVERY year, UC Santa Cruz's team swims from Santa Cruz to Monterey as part of the Transbay Swim. This 26-mile swim is done in a relay format, consisting of two relay teams of six. The swimmers compete without wetsuits, in the 50-degree water during 20-minute shifts. They are accompanied by a trio of kayaks that are each there for the swimmers' safety against sharks, jellyfish, and sea lions. A yearly team bonding experience, the swim has also turned into much more than a fundraiser.
The swim took on a much more serious note after being memorialized for former swimmer Ian W. Carney, who competed with UC Santa Cruz from 2002-04. Carney participated in the Transbay Swim all three years that he was on the team. Unfortunately, Carney passed away due to a glissading accident on Mount Tallac on Dec. 20, 2004. Ever since his death, the UCSC squad relives and remembers Carney's passion for the outdoors with the 26-mile journey.
The following is a first-person narrative of Payam Saljoughian, one of UCSC's team captains, of his most recent swim. Saljoughian, and the rest of the team, took part in the 2007 edition of the event on Sept. 30.
It was 5:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. The sky was still dark, the stars were bright. I was sitting next to my teammate on the cold sand at Seabright beach. As I looked to my left, I could see the light from the sailboat creeping around the corner of the harbor. Never had time gone so slow. I was told not to begin swimming, until our coach gave us the go ahead. Finally, from beyond the breaking waves, I heard our coach yell: "alright, go for it." My teammate, the first swimmer on the other relay, and I started running out towards the water. It was then that the 2007 Ian W. Carney Memorial Transbay Swim had begun.
As I sprinted into the water, the cold hit my feet, and splashed onto my upper body as I went further into the Pacific Ocean. A large set of waves rolled in and I decided it was now that I needed to take the plunge, and begin to swim. I swam frantically, as my limbs became cold and numb, and my blood moved quickly to my vital organs. As I swam stroke after stroke, I could see nothing, as both the water and sky were pitch black. The only things that were visible were the two blue glowsticks that my teammate had attached to her cap. My body was so cold, that sprinting was the only option. Thoughts of sharks and other sea life crept into my mind, and I was no longer swimming towards a destination, rather for survival. As we made it past the breakers, we were greeted by three kayaks each, and our respective sailboats, which carried the other five members of our relay. For the rest of my 20-minute leg, I would swim inside the safety of the kayaks, crewed by my teammates and coach.
Finally, as I breathed, I could see on the boat, the next swimmer getting ready to dive in. I heard the countdown from 10 to 1 inspiring me to finish strong. My teammate dove in and tagged me as he frantically tried to get accustomed to the freezing water. I quickly swam towards the boat, as I knew warmth awaited me. When I reached the boat, I hung from the ladder for a few moments, catching my breath, still in shock from the last 20 minutes. I made my way up the ladder, and was greeted by my teammates as they brought me towels and encouragement.
I sat on the boat, getting colder as my adrenaline wore off. I went down to the hull, and tried to get out of my swim brief as quickly as possible. This usually simple task was harder than it has ever been. I could not help but to shiver and shake uncontrollably. It took a few minutes to change into my clothes, especially with the rocking of the boat, which tossed me side to side. Trying to tie my shoes was nearly impossible as my fingers were frozen. I stuffed my face with some Oreos and Gatorade, as I got back to the deck of the boat before sea sickness set in.
I huddled under numerous parkas and sleeping bags and wedged myself between my teammates for warmth, but the shivering would not stop. It was then that I realized this was only the first of six swims. One by one, my teammates dove in the water, each experiencing the same shock and cold. As I finally began to get warm, and regain my consciousness, I realized that the sixth member of the relay was in the water. I would be up again shortly, and it was time to get my cold, wet suit on.
We became excited as the sun came out because of the warmth that it brought. However, the light that it brought added a new dimension to the bay swim. As if dealing with the cold was not enough, we could now see hundreds of jellyfish as we looked down into the abyss. The jellyfish varied in size and shape, but all were frightening. On my third swim, the jellies were in full force, and I was stung on my left arm. A sting that not only hurt physically, but also mentally as every jellyfish that I saw and ran into became more frightening than before.
As the day wore on, and we went further into the ocean, the water became colder, and the conditions grew worse. Each swim seemed longer than the last, and each rest period seemed shorter than before. This was how my teammates and I chose to spend our entire Sunday; raising money for our swim team.
Finally, 10 hours later, we were within a mile of Monterey. Throughout the day, the camaraderie that we had built as teammates was unlike any other event we had ever done. As we reached the last 500 yards, the five remaining swimmers joined the swimmer in the water, as we all swam into the beach together as a team. We were greeted by the rest of our teammates as we waited for the second boat to finish. Never had it felt so good to walk on solid ground.
For more information on how to get involved in the Ian W. Carney Memorial Transbay Swim, check our UC Santa Cruz's web site: www.slugswim.org.