Foggy and wet at Avila this morning. The swell was down but there was still a slow roll out there. Sue and I stepped into the crazy zone and actually swam around Avila Rock. It was a good swim, if a little crazy.
Personally, I think this is the most hazardous time of the year at Avila and it is about tiny stuff. Not sharks, which are a summer thing and rare, or boats, or the storm surf that we get this time of the year but the high load of bacteria that San Luis Creek carries into the ocean when it rains. Thursday mornings samples by the Surfrider Blue Water Task Force have bacteria levels on the west side of the pier (opposite where Tom and Sue were today) at 6x the state limit for safe contact with the water, the creek mouth is at 9x and in the estuary it is 12X. Some areas further up the creek posted numbers 25X the state's recommendation. This is not unusual when it rains, with the numbers highest early in the winter when there is more poo in the creek's watershed for the rain to push into the creek.
The water from the creek disperses out into the ocean so if you want to swim in this water the game is to guess how diluted the bacteria load will be where you are swimming. Dial in how long it has been since the last rain, how robust your immune system is, how long you will be in the water and how much water you will get in your mouth, eyes and nose and you can arrive at a guess of your risk.
Staying on the east side of the pier is a start but the surf, tide and the relative strength of the flow in the creek vs the tide and the waves will determine where the outflow goes. It is a guess and you hope you make a good one.
The Surfrider Blue Water Task Force collects beach and creek water samples from Pismo to Cambria on Thursday mornings and the test results are posted about noon on Friday at
If you like having this kind of data available before you get in the ocean consider giving your local chapter a few bucks.
In the early 90's there was no water quality information available and we were ignorant about the risk that creek runoff could expose us to so we were swam all of the time, including during storms in water that was so full of silt from the creek that it looked like a latte. A number of our swimmers had chronic sinus infections and who knows how many of the other aches and 'colds' the rest of us had were due to exposure to the bacteria in the water. We have the ability to be smarter now.