HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. — The fabled Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim, a centerpiece of the South Bay-based International Surf Festival, will return this year after taking last year off for COVID restrictions.
“It’s a labor of love, I guess,” said Gary Crum, the race’s director and son of race namesake and local lifeguarding legend Dwight Crum. “So many people get so much pleasure out of it that it keeps me going,” Crum said.
The Pier-to-Pier is just what the name sounds like — a two-mile race, with a two-hour time limit, from the Hermosa Beach Pier to the Manhattan Beach Pier.
Dwight Crum started the race in 1963, the Surf Festival’s first year, and it was named in his honor when he retired from lifeguarding in 1975. The race was one of his passions and his favorite event among the ISF’s offerings.
Gary Crum, a retired Los Angeles County Lifeguard Captain in his own right, took the reins of the swim about 10 years ago. Within that time, he said, its grown significantly. In its first year, back in the 1960s, only 50 people participated. The 2019 race had approximately 1,200 swimmers cross the finish line.
“My dad would never have envisioned that it would grow into what it’s turned into…over the last 15 years, it’s really taken off and developed a cult following,” Crum said.
The Pier-to-Pier is one of the main events of the annual International Surf Festival, which is a celebration of the ocean and the people who love it.
Its contests include the swim, paddleboard races, dory boat racing (celebrating their traditional use as lifeguard vessels), both bodysurfing and surfing championships and the famed Charlie Saikley Six-Man Volleyball tournament — an event that, for years, was the biggest party on the beach.
But the Pier-to-Pier is singular in that it attracts all kinds of swimmers from people checking the swim off their bucket lists, to weekend warriors, to Olympic-level athletes. Defending champion Ryan Bullock has won the Pier-to-Pier five times, including four straight wins, as of 2019.
Prospective swimmers for the race will be asked to participate in one of three 500 meter “check-out” swims held throughout July, though Crum acknowledged that organizers will give consideration to those who can show proof of results for finishing similar open-water distance swims, such as the Santa Monica Pier swim, or Redondo Beach’s Swim the Avenues race.
Crum is grateful that racers have taken to the event as quickly as they have after a year away. Within the first 24 hours of registration opening, more than 200 swimmers signed up for the event. That feels like an especially big deal since he had to refund registration fees for about 500 registrants to last year’s canceled race.
“For the Surf Festival in general, but the Pier-to-Pier also, so many of the participants have made this part of their tradition for years, as an iconic South Bay event,” Crum said. “We must be doing something right.”
Information and registration for the Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim, as well as the rest of the International Surf Festival events, can be found at surffestival.org. Registration fees are $50 until July 1 when they bump to $60.