Sports: Ocean Crossing for a Cause

Monica Jones Faces Cold Waters to Raise Money for Youth Swim Lessons

Monica Jones
Paul Wellman

Monica Jones is the BFF (best friend forever) to area swimming; her history proves it. In 2009, she was part of a group that got Los Baños del Mar pool declared a county and state historical landmark and raised more than $1 million to prevent the City of Santa Barbara from pursuing a plan to create a grandiose harbor entrance at that spot. That same year, she also raised money to save the Sunday adult swim program at Los Baños and keep the Ortega Park swimming pool open. (Her efforts garnered her a 2009 Local Hero Award from this newspaper.)

Jones, 73, is at it again. This time, she’s out to secure funds to cover the cost of swim lessons for area youth. “Many children who live along the California coast have never had the opportunity to learn to swim,” Jones noted in a promotional flyer about her effort. “Swimming is great fun, but the bottom line is that water is dangerous for those of us who cannot swim, especially children. Just as someone taught you and me how to swim, perhaps you could now help children learn to swim.”

Rather than simply ask for donations — “$41 pays for two weeks of daily lessons for one child” — she will demonstrate how serious she is about the cause: She joined an all-woman relay team to swim 19 miles across the Santa Barbara Channel from Santa Cruz Island to Oxnard. What makes this relay unique is the six women on the team are ages 62-76. They call themselves the Sea Sprites. The relay is scheduled to begin at midnight on September 19. Each person will swim one hour at a time across the channel — without wet suits.

“I got an email from someone down south that wanted to do the first-ever ‘Little Old Ladies Swim’ from Santa Cruz to Oxnard,” Jones explained. “I said, ‘I’m slow,’ and she said, ‘We don’t care. You have to be old and tough and be willing to swim in the dark.’ I said I’d do it.”

Jones and 76-year-old Sylvia Glenn of Santa Maria are the county representatives on the relay team. Glenn was a regular in the mile swim at the Reef and Run series.

“She’s faster than me,” said Jones. “I always come in last in the mile.” But Jones always finishes, and she hasn’t missed a Reef and Run swim this summer. “I have perfect attendance,” she said, proudly, after completing the season-ending Boat to Beach mile to East Beach.

Jones said she started swimming in the ocean at age 65. She took a class at City College and was hooked. “I leave my green shoes with the lifeguard so they know I’m out there, and I swim for an hour,” she said. “This is without a wet suit. You have to be old and tough; you have to gain Adipose tissue, or fat, right?”

Jones said the ocean currents can sometimes make it difficult for her to get back to shore. But she’s learned if there is a will, there is a way. “Last week, it was kind of stormy, and I asked [City of Santa Barbara Director of Aquatics] Rich Hanna, ‘How am I going to get in?’ And Rich says to me, ‘Listen, you drove your car down here; you can get out of the water.’ So I just waited ’til I got to the last buoy and told the paddler, ‘You tell me when to start swimming in. You know I’m not fast.’”

Those challenges don’t deter her from going out again. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I don’t climb mountains, but the ocean is here, so why not swim in the ocean?”

How to donate to the swim: Online:, or by check: Payable to PARC Foundation. (Indicate this check is for Monica’s Swim), PARC Foundation, P.O. Box 91742, S.B., CA 93190 (Tax I.D. # 77-0126823). For questions, contact Jones at 569-2407 or See for the full story.


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