South County Beat: Swimming on despite challenges

It took an hour longer than planned, but Arroyo Grande resident Rob Dumouchel successfully kicked off the new year with a 6.2-mile swim in 53-degree ocean water.

Dumouchel, who prefers to swim long distances in open water without a wetsuit, decided to stage the first ever Pismo Polar Bear 10K — swimming from the Avila Beach pier to the Pismo Beach pier — and raise money for the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

So far, he’s raised $1,450, and he will continue to accept donations on his blog, robaquatics.com, through the end of the week.

His was a one-man quest, but Dumouchel thinks others may be willing to join him next year.

Saturday’s swim was one of his hardest, Dumouchel wrote on his blog. Choppy water and swells turned the anticipated three-hour swim into a four-hour fight. But, as Dumouchel wrote in an e-mail: “Once I start swimming, I’m pretty stubborn. I think the only thing I would have cut my swim short for would have been a shark sighting.”

Instead, Dumouchel saw kelp, cliffs and rolling waves, and he finished his swim to cheers from friends and family, who clustered at the end of the Pismo Beach pier.

Dumouchel said he’s received interest from friends across the country who may want to tackle the same stretch of ocean with him sometime. Other future plans include a 10-mile swim in Vermont in July and a tentative plan to swim across Lake Tahoe in August.

“Beyond that, I’d like to find some new swims locally that no one has ever taken on before,” he wrote in an e-mail. “A 25- or 26-mile swim from Morro Bay to Avila Beach might be an exciting way to spend a day.”

Yearlong events celebrating Arroyo Grande’s 100th birthday will start this month as banners displaying the names of sponsors are hung from lampposts throughout the city.

Event organizers are also seeking Arroyo Grande nonagenarians — people in their 90s — to be honored at City Council meetings throughout the year.

Arroyo Grande’s centennial is July 10. Events leading up to that date include a century bike ride, centennial ball, parade, dedication and burial of a time capsule, historical re-enactments, a railroad exhibit, old-fashioned country-themed dances, a run, summer concerts and a fireworks finale.

“There’s a buzz on the streets about the centennial,” said Judith Bean, executive director of the Arroyo Grande Chamber of Commerce.

Anyone 90 and older in 2011 can contact Bean at 489-1488 or judith@agchamber.com. Those interested in becoming a sponsor should call Iris Swisher at 473-6859. For more information on the centennial celebration, go to arroyograndecentennial.org.

Cynthia Lambert and Gayle Cuddy write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.