Monday, July 23 , 2018, 3:09 am | Fair 68º


For Local Competitors, Santa Barbara Reef and Run Is Just Beachy

The weekly series, founded by three local athletes, has runners and swimmers racing to East Beach

Dozens of people, some dressed in running shorts and some in wetsuits, lined up Tuesday night to check in at tables outside the Cabrillo Bathhouse. About 6:30 p.m., those swimmers and runners took off from East Beach as part of the Santa Barbara Reef and Run series.

Each week, participants can compete in the one-mile or 1k ocean swims, or a two- or four-mile run. There’s also a duathlon every week, with a 1k swim and a two-mile run.

The group is new to the Santa Barbara scene, having begun April 28. Reef and Run is the brainchild of three athletes and volunteers — Richard La Claire, Alipasha Zaiee and Jane Cairns — and the trio have started the process of applying for nonprofit status.

“Our run is a flat course, and you don’t have to worry about cars,” La Claire said. “We have hot showers and lockers here at the bathhouse.”

Season entry for the event, which runs weekly until Sept. 8, costs $175; a single night costs $15. The group gives discounts to people involved in charities and will mark down registration fees, “just so you’re here, getting the stress out of your life,” La Claire said.

All three of the founders participated in another local event, Nite Moves, for years before becoming friends and deciding to start their own event. Nite Moves also offers swimming, running and biathlon events, but the trio “wanted a change, something different,” Cairns said.

“I’ve always wanted a mile swim,” she said, adding that she was excited about the possibility with Reef and Run. She spends a lot of time at East Beach, where she trains as a long-distance paddle boarder and often swims in the area.

The founders have big plans, Cairns said.

If they can achieve nonprofit status, the group would like to take entry fees, which now are used to cover the event’s operating costs, and donate them to a different organization each summer. “We’d start out with a youth group or the Junior Guards program, and have all of our monies that we get through the race go to one particular program,” she said.

Now, the entrance fees go toward things such as the group’s city permits to use the beach and to pay lifeguards, who have to be on duty during the swim. The event happens every week, thanks largely to 15 or so volunteers.

Reef and Run co-founder Jane Cairns briefs swimmers before the mile swim at East Beach on Tuesday.
Reef and Run co-founder Jane Cairns briefs swimmers before the mile swim at East Beach on Tuesday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“We are not in it for the money,” she said. “We’re just trying to keep it really simple and community-based.”

Cairns said many of her friends still do Reef and Run as well as Nite Moves, and she endorses that wholeheartedly. “If I was just competing, I would want to do as many events as I could a week,” she said. “We have so much to offer in this town with the ocean and the running, that this town can have a couple of events.”

Representatives at Nite Moves could not be reached for comment.

The location Reef and Run holds its events is also the site of Semana Nautica and the Santa Barbara County Triathlon, and many use the weekly event as a chance to train for those larger gatherings.

“The first week, we had 250 people show up. It was huge,” Zaiee said. Both bathhouse parking lots were full, and cars were parked all the way to the Santa Barbara Zoo, he said. “It kind of blew my mind. I did not expect that.”

After each week’s event, local bands play while Reef and Run volunteers serve drinks, and participants are invited to bring a picnic dinner.

Swimmer Cindy Braden, who has been participating since Reef and Run’s first week, said she liked the one-mile option. Braden works as an accountant during the day, but said she has a passion for ocean swimming.

“I just think it’s a fun event,” she said, adding that she plans to do the whole lineup until September.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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