While the San Clemente Ocean Festival remains on hiatus for 2023 due to staffing issues, those looking for their competitive water sports along the Municipal Pier will get a one-day reprieve in July.
The City of San Clemente announced the creation of the San Clemente Ocean Games, a single-day event on July 15 for swimmers, runners, junior lifeguards and multi-sport athletes to compete in a condensed short-term replacement for the annual Ocean Festival.
After pandemic cancellations of the San Clemente Ocean Festival in 2020 and 2021, “The Greatest Show on Surf” returned for its 45th year on July 16-17, 2022 with the full bevy of swim, surf and boat races and accompanying sand castle competitions, car displays and live music for the two-day event.
However, the effects of the pandemic lingered for the Ocean Festival organizers in the form of limited staff and volunteers. Simply without the manpower to put together its 46th edition, the 2023 Ocean Festival was canceled in February.
Following that cancellation, a group of lifeguards banded together to try and save some sort of mid-July water sport competition, and they did so in the form of the San Clemente Ocean Games, which will be hosted by the City of San Clemente along with a sponsorship of Orange County Professional Firefighters Local 3631.
The Ocean Games will feature three different levels of events, with Lifeguard Events for those over 16 years old, Junior Lifeguard Events that will be run with youths in two age groups (9-12 and 13-16), and Open Events for any competitor age 15 and over.
The biggest crowd-pleasing headline event of the Ocean Festival is the Dory boat races, and those will return as a Lifeguard Event. There are 10 Lifeguard Events, including the three-lap Dory boat race, surf race, surf ski race, rescue relay, international ironman, American ironman, American ironwoman, paddleboard sprint and paddleboard rescue relay.
The Junior Lifeguard Events will include a surf race, run-swim-run, and a beach flags race. The Open Events will allow competitors to choose to run in one or all three contests: the 5K beach run, run-swim-run and 1-mile swim.
The day will start with a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. hosted by the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association, and the events will follow in the afternoon with the Junior Lifeguards and Ocean Events beginning at 1:45 p.m. and the Lifeguard Events awards at 5 p.m. San Clemente Marine Safety will also perform a Water Rescue Demo in the afternoon.
Registration for all events is currently available online at san-clemente.org/recreation.
Like the Ocean Festival, the San Clemente Ocean Games will still be staffed by volunteers, with opportunities available for course volunteers and marshals. Those interested in volunteering can register at san-clemente.org/recreation.
Ocean Festival organizers have said they still are aiming to bring back the annual two-day event next summer, and while this July won’t have the full pomp, circumstance and energy of an Ocean Festival weekend, the San Clemente Ocean Games will keep that spark of water competition alive.