Every Wednesday during summer months, Santa Barbara’s Leadbetter Beach fills with swimmers, runners, and triathletes of all ages for an evening of friendly competition and family fun. Fueled by local food and drink sponsors, the Nite Moves race series has become a central social scene for all kinds of active individuals and families. The event consists of a 1k ocean swim, then a 5k run on the Cabrillo Beach Bike path, and a free sand sprint for the kiddos, all to the soundtrack of a live band and cawing seagulls.
When race director Jake Clinton started the event series with Chris Holmberg and Ed St. Clair in 1989, it was an instant success. Hoping for 200 participants, their restaurant partner for the week had prepared 400 ribs. Clinton recalls, “When I realized we had 298 people registered I ran off to the food line and told them, one rib per person...the next week we had 500, although the flyer had indicated a limit of 300!” Over the 6 mid-week events of their first season, an average of 500 participants joined the fun for what was then just a 5k or 8k run. Originally one restaurant was the primary partner and caterer for each week, so the event had a corresponding name depending on the week, like “The Cajun Jambalaya Jaunt” for The Cajun Kitchen.
Twenty-six years later the event continues to thrive, now expanded to 18 weeks (April 30-August 27) and averaging around 300 runners per night.
Though it started as a social gathering for competition and training, Clinton says, “the park itself now fills up with family and friends just enjoying the sunset and beach as they watch the competitors.” Not only is there a great sunset to go with the food, drink, and music, but also the Santa Barbara Yacht Club has their “Wet Wednesday” fleet of around 60 boats on the horizon to add to the scenery.
The event series provides an excellent opportunity every week to tune up, get some speed work, or hone racing skills. How many triathletes have the opportunity to participate in sanctioned open-water swimming in a race environment for 18 weeks of the year with a transition zone? Signing up for the complete Nite Moves season doubles as training program to keep you motivated through those dog days of summer.
With its wide array of options and the longest running Aquathon series in California, the atmosphere of Nite Moves is contagious. Clinton says, “the general nature of it being a primarily local affair and being so much more social than the typical 5K event has been a huge draw. How do you beat an intimate sunset concert in a beach side setting with friends that have partaken in the event for 25 years?” Register here!