‘Enjoy the swim’: La Jolla Cove 10 Mile Relay to draw over 600 to The Shores

The La Jolla Cove 10 Mile Relay, pictured in 2019, will return to La Jolla Shores on Sunday, Sept. 26.
(Susan Forsburg)

More than 600 swimmers will take to the shore — La Jolla Shores, to be exact — at 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, as part of the annual La Jolla Cove 10 Mile Relay, an event to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association and the Prevent Drowning Foundation of San Diego.

The sold-out event will feature a 1-mile triangular loop route starting at The Shores. Some 125 teams of up to five swimmers each will take on the ocean course, one swimmer for one mile at a time.

There also will be 20 solo swimmers, so each participant will swim anywhere from two miles to the full 10 over a few hours.

The event has been organized by La Jollan John Heffner and Carmel Valley resident Tom Hecker, both avid Cove swimmers, since 2010, when they took over for Pete Stafford and Dale Larabie, who originated the relay in 2000.

Heffner has participated since its inception. “I like the camaraderie of all the swimmers and the enthusiasm of everyone who participates and how much they really enjoy the event,” he said.

The swim is not all fun, however. Heffner said many find it “unnerving” being far from shore in the open ocean, without a lane line to follow.

During the La Jolla Cove 10 Mile Relay, teammates hand off turns in the water after completing a 1-mile lap.
(Susan Forsburg)

“Trying to maintain a reasonably straight course toward where you’re trying to go can be a little difficult,” Heffner said. Bumpy water conditions can add to the challenge.

Though the event started from The Cove in earlier years, it’s been held the past few times at The Shores, swimming into The Cove, because there’s more space at The Shores for the teams and their canopies and other equipment.

The relay was not held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers consider it more “a celebration of swimming and community than a race,” Heffner said, “although we track all of the participating teams and award first-place consideration in each of the various combined age-group categories.”

“This is a pretty low-key event,” he added. “We allow people to use fins or wetsuits. … We want people just to enjoy the swim and to have fun and have some level of competition with some of their friends if they want to. That’s the enjoyment of the swimming, the celebration of swimming, as opposed to the celebration of competition.”

The original organizers gave all proceeds to the American Diabetes Association, a tradition Heffner and Hecker maintained. They added the Prevent Drowning Foundation of San Diego when they took over.

Since 2010, the relay has donated nearly $150,000 to the organizations. Heffner said the 2019 event raised more than $32,000.

The relay is volunteer-run, with entry fees going toward fundraising, race shirts, swim caps and city permits. Additional financial support was provided this year by Duke’s La Jolla and La Jolla Swim and Sport, Heffner said.

“I’m hopeful we will have a good, safe event ... being together in a healthy, outdoor way,” he said.

For more information, visit lj10milerelay.com.