Arroyo Grande man plans to swim 6.2 miles without wetsuit

Rob Dumouchel stands at the water’s edge in Avila Beach, the starting point for his 10k swim on New Year’s Day that finishes at the Pismo Beach Pier.
Rob Dumouchel stands at the water’s edge in Avila Beach, the starting point for his 10k swim on New Year’s Day that finishes at the Pismo Beach Pier. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

His training partner wore a wetsuit, but Rob Dumouchel walked into the ocean at Avila Beach on Tuesday wearing camouflage-patterned swim trunks, “Rob Aquatics” written on the rear, and a white swim cap.

Dumouchel’s midday swim — the water temperature was 56 degrees — was training for a bigger challenge he plans to take on New Year’s Day: his twist on the traditional polar bear plunge.

He plans to swim the first-ever Pismo Polar Bear 10k, a 6.2-mile swim from the Avila Beach Pier to the Pismo Beach Pier without a wetsuit.

He’ll start at 8 a.m. and hopes to finish in about three hours.

Dumouchel, 29, of Arroyo Grande is the sole participant at this year’s event, though his training partner will kayak in front of him and a boat from Avila Beach-based Seaweed Express will trail behind, in case he has any symptoms of hypothermia.

“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, so I thought I’d try it myself first and maybe next year we’ll turn it into an event and see if anyone else wants to come out,” he said.

The event is also a fundraiser: Dumouchel has raised between $1,100 and $1,200 so far, which he’ll give to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

Dumouchel started swimming when he was 12, but took a break after high school. About three years ago, he got back into the water.

Since then, Dumouchel has pushed himself to swim farther and farther in open water: starting with 1.25 miles and eventually working up to 10 miles. Last October, he swam the farthest yet — 12.6 miles in the OptimisSport Distance Swim Challenge, from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica, which he finished in a little more than eight hours, without a wetsuit. The water temperature ranged from 60 to 64 degrees, Dumouchel wrote on his blog.

“I keep stepping it up,” said Dumouchel, who is on the Southern Pacific Masters Swimming executive board and trains with a group of open-water swimmers, the Avila Dolphins, on Sundays at Avila Beach year-round.

He’s also the executive vice president at Grover Beach-based online marketing company Systems & Marketing Solutions.

Dumouchel prefers to swim without a wetsuit — wetsuits are not allowed at some larger swims, such as swimming the Catalina Channel — pushing the limits of his tolerance to cold water.

“Spending a few hours in mid- to low-50-degree water isn’t for everybody,” Dumouchel wrote in an e-mail. “You really need to listen to your body. As a bigger dude I’m sure I have an advantage over other swimmers who are really lean with not much body fat to insulate them.”

Asked what he prefers about open-water swimming, Dumouchel said: “I like the spontaneity of the ocean. You can have it be perfectly clear and beautiful or big waves and lots of chop. I like the cold; it makes you feel alive.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.