During the summer of 1986, four Emerald Bay residents, Alan Wolf, Mark Disman, John Heatley and Bailey Smith spent their weekends at Emerald Bay beach snorkeling and exploring the surrounding coves. They would generally walk from cove to cove but sometimes had to swim around certain points. They were always struck by the overall beauty of the water, the view from the water of the surrounding hills, and the tidepool filled coves they crossed.
Their short weekend jaunts had only taken them as far north as Irvine Cove and as far south as Crescent Bay. So to end the summer, they decided to explore the entire coast of Laguna Beach starting at Emerald Bay and going south. At that time, Laguna Beach ended at Victoria beach. Walking where they could and swimming around various points where they could not walk, the foursome arrived at Victoria Beach tired but happy several hours later. Thus, the advent of the now world famous Aquathon.
Although the trip was beautiful, the Aquathon would have then died a quiet death but for one fact; to their complete surprise Alan, Mark, John and Bailey discovered that a number of women chose to bathe topless in the secluded coves along the way. With this in mind, next years event was a certainty.
The foursome made the trip again in 1987 making sure they hit each and every secluded cove. Tired but happy, they arrived once more at Victoria Beach. To celebrate the event, they hopped a ride to Gina's Pizza in Boat Canyon and bought a pitcher of beer. Thus, the advent of drinking at the end of the Aquathon.
Some things are just too good to be true and allowing four married men to explore secluded coves for topless bathers is one of those things. Yes, somehow the wives learned of this clever ploy. Thus ended the Aquathon as it was then known. Instead, the wives insisted that it be replaced with a "family event" where women and children were welcome to join in the walk/swim hike.
Equally important to 1988 was the addition of Bob Harman to the event. Bob is a real "people person" with great organizational skills. Using his truly amazing talents, a list of people possibly interested in doing the Aquathon was developed and the first flyer regarding the Aquathon was sent out. At about the same time, the boundaries of Laguna Beach were extended from Victoria Beach to the end of Three Arch Bay. Directly due to Bob's efforts, nearly 30 people attended the 1988 Aquathon, an almost ten fold increase in participation. Through Bob's great generosity, food and water were provided at Three Arch Bay to celebrate the finish of the event. Thus, Bob came up with the idea of a keeping a list of people interested in the event, the flyer, the use of food and water on the trip, and the party at the end site. Bob also invented the internet about this time. Finally, Bob wrote this paragraph.
To some of the people who received the flyer, the Aquathon was merely a wolf in sheep's clothing (pun intended). For many years prior to the first Aquathon, people such as Gary Cogorno, Bill Dolby and Scott McCarter had periodically done their own brand of Aquathon, traveling the the length of Laguna and further through night swims and various Full Moon Hikes looking for safe passage to the fabled Dana Pt headlands. Gary, Bill and Scott decided to join the Aquathon in 1988 and have been there ever since. During the 70’s real original aqua-explorers were Bob Johnson, Brant Davis & Steve Kinney who would leave emerald on any hot fall day and swim & walk until hungry, usually The Penguin Cafe, then proceed further until exhausted at which time they would ride the OCTA back to Emerald never losing sight of their starting point these trail blazers determined the Laguna did end at Camel Pt (which is another story in itself). Bill Steer did the Aquathon in a Calibogie.
Alan went along with Bob's idea because Bob promised Alan that he could do an introductory speech at the event. Alan likes to talk. For all of you who know Alan, nothing more needs to be said.
For years, Alan and Bob ran the Aquathon. In 1991 several changes were made. First, the ending was changed from Three Arch Bay to the new Ritz Carlton in Dana Point. Use of the Ritz Carlton was obtained through an Aquathon participant who knew O.J. Simpson. O.J. had the hotel's Hertz rent-a-car agency at the time (For some reason, he no longer has it). Second, rest stops with food and water were added at Victoria Beach and Three Arch Bay. Finally, the first Aquathon Tee-Shirts were made available to Aquathon participants.
Tragedy struck in 1992. Red flag, red tide, cold water temperature and a start at high tide made the Aquathon the most treacherous ever. Only of a handful of people completed the event. It was only several days later that we discovered that someone who had started the event was never again to be found.
To this date, we cannot be sure that this person was lost on the Aquathon. And although no body was ever found, all bets are on the Aquathon as the cause. We mourn his loss. We just wish we could remember who he was.
The next year we added two new safety features to the Aquathon- a buddy system and a prayer. The buddy system required each participant to have a buddy throughout the event. Since many of our participants were loners and without friends, this requirement led to one of the smallest turnouts ever for the 1993 event.
For the prayer, we selected part time ocean pastor Nubie Sears, a seasoned Aquathoner. Nubie's prayer to the ocean done just before we start the trip has since filled the hearts of all people who have traveled the Aquathon. The prayer is inspirational and uplifting. Hardened Aquathoners are known to cry listening to his tender words. Some now come to the start of the Aquathon , not the do the Aquathon, but just to hear this beautiful poem.
From 1994 through today, the Aquathon has grown in size and stature. Word was spread by Aquathoners enthralled by the event many of whom describe it as the best day in their life (those people really do need to get a life). Others describe it simply as an "intense spiritual experience." We say, "to each, his own."
In addition to word of mouth, Aquathon Tee-shirts, already commonly seen throughout California, began to appear throughout the world. In fact, it is hard to go anywhere in the world and not run into a devote Aquathoner. The Aquathon Tee-Shirt creates bonds and destroys language barriers. In short, the Aquathon has done its part in making the world a better place to live.
ABC Wide World of Sports did a five minute segment on the Aquathon in 1996 finding it one of the new "extreme sports." The piece caused an onslaught of interest in the event necessitating a concerted effort to deny the very existence of the Aquathon. Aside from this minor slip, we have been successful in keeping the event out of the press. For example, Sports Illustrated asked for rights to cover the event in 1999. Permission was refused.
We have also periodically refused to allow coverage of the event by the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Larry King Live,and MacGillivray-Freeman Films.
In 2000, and as part of the new millennium, Gary, Bill and Scott took over the event from Alan and Bob. Given the way both Alan and Bob looked, there was great fear that they would soon die with the Aquathon secrets lost forever. It is our hope that this web page will help keep the Aquathon spirit alive.