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Nite Moves Still On the Go After 21 Years of Waterfront Fun

Santa Barbara's original run- and ocean-swim event lures a 'mini-community' of loyal participants

Even after 21 years, hundreds of athletes still gather on summer Wednesday nights to launch from Leadbetter Beach to swim and run as part of Nite Moves.

The event happens year in, year out, May through August, and lures participants to the park, where they can participate in a 5K run, a 1K ocean swim — or both, in the “Aquathon.” This season’s final Nite Moves event will be Wednesday.

Even if you’re not racing, taking in the view of the sailboats just off the park’s coastline makes the event worthwhile. Sticking around to hear the weekly bands that play during the event and grabbing some beer and food from the event’s sponsors are added bonuses to the beautiful setting.

Just before a swim on a recent Wednesday, Jake Clinton, the force behind the event, took time to share some Nite Moves history.

Clinton and two other friends, Chris Holmberg and Eddie St. Clair, all runners, decided to start their own Santa Barbara event. When Leadbetter Beach was picked in 1989 for Nite Moves, it was an underutilized park, Clinton said. Nowadays, it’s one of the city’s most popular oceanfront sites.

At the trio’s opening night, 298 people showed up, a turnout for which Clinton said he wasn’t prepared. During the next six weeks, participation crested at more than 700 people at one point.

“We knew we had a hit,” he said.

Now that Nite Moves is in its 21st season, turnout is still fairly consistent, with about 350 people turning out weekly, Clinton said. That’s down about 75 participants from last year, which Clinton said is mostly because of the economy. When gas prices soared last summer, the Nite Movers who came to participate from out of town were forced to cut back; Clinton said he’s had people come as far as Bakersfield to swim and run.

Some people prefer to stay on the beach to cheer on the Nite Moves athletes.
Some people prefer to stay on the beach to cheer on the Nite Moves athletes. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

But just because organizers have seen a slight drop in turnout doesn’t mean Clinton has slowed his plans to move Nite Moves forward. He’s been working on a design layout for a Nite Moves event in San Diego, and hopes to expand in Boise, seemingly an unlikely place for such an event. Although it doesn’t have an ocean coastline, the Idaho capital borders a river that would work perfectly, and was the idea of a former Nite Mover who relocated there.

Participating in Nite Moves costs $25 the first time, and $20 after that, and $235 for a whole season. Clinton is quick to say that the price includes a Nite Moves T-shirt, and for those of legal drinking age, a complementary beer provided by a sponsor. Participants also get a ticket for a raffle drawing that provides a fee wetsuit.

“I’ve always been putting back into this event to make it better and better,” adding better clocks and timing equipment, he said.

Volunteer Jose Gonzalez, who’s helped with the event since its inception, said the group that shows up every week functions as a mini-community. He said he’s seen many friendships and relationships begin and blossom during Nite Moves. For example, a couple who met at Nite Moves got married years ago. Their 11-year-old child was singing in the band that performed earlier this month.

“Every night here is beautiful,” he said. “Everybody has their own goal. Some are triathletes, some are swimmers. We have lawyers, we have doctors, we have everybody.”

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

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» on 08.29.09 @ 12:36 AM

Most community running events donate money to charities, but the Nite Moves organizer pockets the proceeds for personal gain. Yeah, for profit. Boo for people that spend the money.

» on 08.29.09 @ 10:12 AM

It’s too bad that you would read such an uplifting article and find something negative to say - if you don’t like where you think the money goes, don’t pay, but try to keep the negative stuff to yourself. Too many people have too much fun for it to be ruined by people who want to bring everyone else down…

» on 08.30.09 @ 12:00 PM

As a 30 year+ resident in SB I disagree with the statement about Leds being an “underutilized park”. Maybe in the sense of someone capitalizing on a local public resource, i.e one of SB’s few beach parks, yes. But Leds has always been one of the more popular beach front parks= location-location-location. And now along with numerous other events throughout the year AND SBCC’s never ending quest to continue its impacting growth, Leds is seriously abused and basic public access is constantly having to compete with other for profit self-interests. So I hope the City charges ‘em more!

» on 08.31.09 @ 01:41 AM

If Noozhawk wants to be known as a real alternative news source, then their reporters must start doing more research on their articles.

Where is the part about the Reef n Run, which is held at East Beach on Tues. nights?  The Nite Moves numbers are down because of the economy? How about the numbers are down because there is competition for the same type of event. Or how about researching the reason why Reef n Run started in the first place, basically with former Nite Moves people who were frustrated with the system and started another event?

Noozhawk, you need to do more research to be a real news source.  As of now, it is just fluff.  But I will give credit that Noozhawk has been a great service to the local community during emergency situations.

[Noozhawk’s note: You mean this story? For Local Competitors, Santa Barbara Reef and Run Is Just Beachy]

» on 08.31.09 @ 03:25 AM

yes I mean that story.  It was published over a month ago!  Both stories are listed under Local News.  If it is going to be there, then there should be more research done for this story.  At least the previous story mentioned where Reef and Run came from, but not in this story when it is very obvious that Reef and Run has had a very powerful impact on Nite Moves.

If this story was not listed under “Local News” (perhaps under “columnists” then I would not have a problem with it at all.  It just bugs me when it is listed as “Local News” and it is not written as such.

[Noozhawk’s note: Point taken. We’ll change them to Outdoors.]

» on 08.31.09 @ 02:01 PM

Noozhawk did an article on Nite Moves, not other organizations. That would have taken up 20 pages in an article. How about all the other beaches and their events?... And to BAC BADC…belive it or not, not everything in this world is non profit…this is America where people can actually get paid for their efforts in helping others have fun and be healthy.

» on 08.31.09 @ 03:53 PM

Editor -

Great idea.  Sorry to cause problems and complain, but thank you for making the change. The article makes more sense now as an informative article rather than a news article.

» on 10.12.09 @ 12:40 AM

It is truly a shame that people who do not know the facts would publish such false statements about the Nite Moves. Please check your facts, do some research. I have contributed and will continue to contribute to many local and national causes through my efforts at Nite Moves. Check with Team In Training, SB Equine Evac Club, Echelon Bike Club, SB Bike Club, Echelon Youth, SBCancer Resource Center, Spirit of ‘76…just to name a few offthe top of my head…no false claims as I have just done this as Nite Moves is part of the greater SB Community…I think many of the above remarks fall under the category of “libelous”. > I need no alias and sign my name to any public comments I make. Apparently not so with the above nay sayers.

» on 10.14.09 @ 10:39 PM

We the 30 plus volunteers of the 46 year old non-profit SPIRIT of 76 are happy to donate our time to Night Moves. This very healthy and rewarding experience is much appreciated.  We like most non-profits struggle to meet our annual commitments for Independence Day activities,Memorial Day, Vetereans Day and Flag Day ( just to mention a few ) our purpose is to honor and respect our patriotic traditions. John Clinton, race director is always first in line to offer a helpful attitude. and yes financial support.
More such community and civic minded individuals are needed to step up to the plate.. PAUL LAMBERTON,Pres,

» on 10.16.09 @ 08:41 PM

Dj the photographer always loves to participate in nite moves, P2P and the Turkey Trot and all the other events of Jake.  he is a wonderful coordinater and spends soo much time preparing for activities the community loves.  Some cities need a Free Enterprise guy like Jake to forster running and swimming.  I am glad he can eek out a small subsistence for his efforts.  You folks that have full time paid jobs can indeed donate some time for free.  I like my pictures of Jakes events and await the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.  The guy BAC_BADC need not do the turkey trot and we will not miss him.

» on 10.20.09 @ 05:03 PM

Nite Moves supports Team In Training and what we do raising money to find a cure for blood cancer. Aside from donating to the fundraising minimums of our volunteers who work the races on a weekly basis, most recently Nite Moves has helped us by joining with other local businesses to sponsor our upcoming Casino for a Cure Fundraiser November 7th. Nite Moves is also is in the planning stages with us to host a walk for a cause event in conjuction with the opening night moves for the 2010- with money from each race entry benefiting the cause of Leukemia & Lymphoma research.

Nite Moves has never said no when we’ve asked for their help in advertising and fundraising help.


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