Best of 2000: Best Place For An Ocean Swim

Del Mar or La Jolla Shores

Del Mar boasts no drownings in 20 years but has bigger surf. La Jolla Shores has a rocky point, Point La Jolla, that protects the beach, but not so many lifeguards per head of swimmers (in summer, anyway). Del Mar has 13 or 14 lifeguards looking out for 5000 to 7000 beachgoers on an average summer day; La Jolla Shores has 15 lifeguards and sometimes 30,000 people. Del Mar boasts two trucks, a car, two ATVs, and, on weekends, two surf boats, all towers open, and 6 guards at headquarters. La Jolla Shores has two patrol vehicles, one ATV, a jet-ski rescue craft, and a 225-hp 22-foot Boston Whaler surf rescue boat (shared with Mission Beach and Ocean Beach). The beach with the record of most rescues in one day is Mission Beach: On July 3, 1997, they saved 274 people. According to Brant Bass, a lieutenant with the San Diego Lifeguard Service, Ocean Beach and Mission Beach are also well-watched. Both he and Del Mar's Susan Doerr-York agree: winter is when you have to watch out. In summer, swells average 4 to 6 feet. In winter, they can grow to 15 to 20 feet. Winter surf digs holes that cause rip currents. And instead of over a dozen lifeguards, La Jolla Shores and Del Mar have maybe 3 each.

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