A Passion For Swimrun

In addition to their own intrepid race schedule, Andy Hewitt and Sean Durkin are the producers of California SwimRun, a 15k Sprint race coming up next Sunday, March 25th in San Diego. We wanted to learn more so we sat down with Andy.

Slowtwitch: What was your sporting background as a kid?

Andy Hewitt: Never became an adult and don't see it happening either. I was a goofy, hyper, un-coordinated, overweight kid that loved swimming in the ocean in San Diego and backpacking. Then I found rowing at age 14. I rowed in High School and college at UC Berkeley and later as a Masters rower at Potomac Boat Club in DC and now at San Diego Rowing Club. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled through 26 marathons, three (3) Ironman races, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel and the Swim Around Manhattan Island before discovering swimrun. And, I retired in 2015 from 30 years in the Marine Corps.

ST: Do you remember when you first learned about swimrun?

AH: On Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014, I was sitting on a plane, about to take off, headed to the US Masters Nationals Rowing Championships in Grand Rapids, MI. I got a text from Matt Sargent in Minneapolis that said, "Dude...you're Crazy...Check this out!" and there was a link to the video of the 2013 ÖTILLÖ World Championship. A year later, Sean and I were in the video of the 2015 ÖTILLÖ race.

ST: What was the first swimrun event you did?

AH: First swimrun race was the inaugural Utö Sprint race in late May, 2015. There were 12 teams and we took 2nd place because we held back to not wear ourselves out for the 40K ÖTILLÖ Utö race that we were competing in the next day. It didn't work. I was gassed the next day.

ST: You are both well traveled and have competed in events around the world. What are your personal favorites?

AH: Loch-gu-Loch in Scotland was the hardest. Casco Bay was the best for our size, swimming ability and the terrain conditions where we frequently train. ÖTILLÖ World Champs is just spectacular for the views and the length and the fact that the whole world is competing.

ST: What is your favorite part about swimrun?

AH: Unlike any other sport, the opportunity to have to rely on another person and for them to rely on you to be successful is unmatched. Being able to train with and compete alongside your buddy, your partner, your best friend is what really makes swimrun stand out.

ST: You guys are very active in promoting the healthy lifestyle of swimrun in San Diego where you live. What kinds of weekly workouts do you do?

AH: The beauty of doing swimrun in San Diego is that it is truly year-around, no wetsuits and unlimited options for swimming and running in the bays, surf and ocean coves. We tell everyone we know about swimrun and encourage them to join.

ST: You guys have been organizing swimrun events in San Diego now for three full years. Can you tell us about California SwimRun’s motto?

AH: We hosted our first swimrun race on Sep 20th, 2015, two weeks after returning home from competing in our first ÖTILLÖ World Championship. It was a 12K race. We charged $20 per team and begged our friends to participate. We had nine (9) teams but, it was the first swimrun race in North America. Sean ended up having to race in the event because one of the team's partners did not show-up. We wear the Five "Rules of Swimrun" on our branded gear. Rule 5 is our favorite, "No Complaining...Ever!"

ST: Your 2018 event is coming up next week. Is there still time to sign up?

AH: Yes. Still time to sign-up for this event on March 25th. The 3pm start will be very unique.

The local community is catching-on to swimrun but, San Diego has such a diverse and open sports community. You can just about do any sport, year-around, and so the competition to attract athletes over to swimrun is tough. We do have a lot of out-of-town athletes from Canada, Scandinavia, Arizona, Germany and South Africa.

The race next weekend will give swimrun athletes the opportunity to demonstrate the sport in front of 15,000+ rowing athletes, spectators, friends and family since the swimrun race is co-located with the San Diego Crew Classic event. This will be an eye-opener for the rowers and a huge boost for the swimrun athletes as the first two swims and runs puts the swimrunners right in front of the crowd. They will be broadcast on the Jumbotron screen and the announcer will be giving play-by-play on the PA system.

Also, in each of the six (6) California SwimRun races we have hosted, we always have a "rockstar" at the event to either compete or be present to inspire the newbies to the sport. At our second race, we had Tracy Sundlun (founder of Rock n Roll Marathon). At the 3rd event, we had Rick LeBeau (winner of the first ever triathlon in the world, held here on Mission Bay. His son, Grant, was a competitor in the race).

Our 4th event was a 22K race last January and Mats Andersson (One of ÖTILLÖ’s Original 4) and Maya Tesch (ÖTILLÖ winner 2015) joined us.

Our last race was on Oct 15, 2017 and hosted Jonas Colting (he has done all 12 ÖTILLÖ World Champ races). Our upcoming race next Sunday will host ÖTILLÖ Founder Michael Lemmel.

ST: What races do you have on your racing schedule this year?

AH: I will be returning to competing in ÖTILLÖ Hvar again with Daemon Anastas in April. Daemon and I will also compete in SwimRun Boston, Rockman Swimrun in Norway in August and the ÖTILLÖ World Champs in September. Sean and I are set to return to the birthplace of swimrun in May to compete in ÖTILLÖ Utö and also in SwimRun Casco Bay Islands in August.

For more info on California SwimRun visit their website.