Swimming, Tennis, Beach Volleyball Take Center Stage in Return of Semana Nautica |  Sports

Swimming, Tennis, Beach Volleyball Take Center Stage in Return of Semana Nautica | Sports

Ocean and pool swimmers, elite volleyball and tennis players and other finely conditioned athletes will be engaged in healthy competition for the next couple of weeks as Semana Nautica, Santa Barbara’s summer sports festival, makes its triumphant return.

The festival wasn’t held the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally called Fleet Week, it dates back to 1933 when local citizens challenged the US Navy seaman from ships anchored off Santa Barbara to a series of athletic competitions.

To celebrate the festival’s return, there will be an ocean swim that dates back to those Fleet Week days and a challenging lifeguard training activity.

On the East Beach sand, professional and California Beach Volleyball Association-rated men’s and women’s beach volleyball players will be competing for cash prizes and a chance to play in the prestigious AVP Manhattan Beach Open later this summer.

The Santa Barbara Open tennis tournament has raised its profile with a deeper field of talent.

Club swimmers from all over Southern California will be back at Los Banos del Mar pool for the Semana Nautica Swim Meet. The Santa Barbara Swim Club event has been part of the festival for many years.

Dana Longo, the president of Semana Nautica and an avid ocean swimmer, is pumped about the festival being back in business.

“Wow, it’s great to be able to be down there and doing our regular thing and being active and being on the beach with one another. Thank God,” he said.

Longo said the quality of athletes that take part in Semana Nautica is impressive.

“That’s kind of a neat thing about sports in general in Santa Barbara. I think we attract top-notch athletes in just about any sport you can imagine. Granted, we don’t have a professional basketball, baseball or football team but in any other sport, be it running, swimming, tennis, you name it, we have big names around here.”

Semana Nautica, however, is about everyone taking part, he emphasized.

“These Semana Nautica events tend to be pretty darn competitive. At the same time, they’re open to everybody,” Longo said. “It’s competitive but it’s not cut-throat competition for the average athlete that wants to get out there and do a swim, a run or what have you.”

Tony Sholl, aquatics supervisor for the City of Santa Barbara, is happy to see things get back to normal.

Swimming, Tennis, Beach Volleyball Take Center Stage in Return of Semana Nautica |  Sports
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The East Beach run-swim biathlon is one of the longstanding events at Semana Nautica. (Noozhawk file photo)

“Santa Barbara is a big ocean swim-triathlon community, so having the ocean events come back is really nice for everybody to get back out there.”

Sholl has restored the 2-mile ocean swim, which is one of the original festival swim races from the early days. It will be held on Saturday.

“We wanted to go back to tradition with that,” he said.

The addition of the 2-miler gives Semana Nautica four ocean swims, joining the 1-mile, 3-mile and 6-mile events.

The 1-mile swim used to be held on the first Saturday. It’s now included in Thursday’s Reef & Run swim series for the next two weeks.

“We wanted to mix it up a little bit, go way back in tradition and do something a little new,” explained Sholl.

A new competition to the festival but a traditional event in lifeguard training is the Swim-Run-Swim-Run-Swim-Run-Swim-Run-Swim.

“That is one of the traditional events we do with the (Santa Barbara City) Junior Lifeguards,” Sholl said. “With the Junior Lifeguards program, we call it the ‘Stud Ironman’ but we wanted it to be more inclusive (for the festival). We kind of said what it was: a bunch of swims and a bunch of runs.”

The participants start on the shoreline in front of the Cabrillo Pavilion, run to each lifeguard tower on the east side of Stearns Wharf, swim to a buoy and back at each stop and continue the pattern coming back to the finish line.

“It’s a fun event; it’s a lot of energy but not too outrageous,” Sholl said. “We’ve been doing this with the Junior Guards for many years.”

He anticipates seeing many former junior guards who are now parents taking part in the event.

“I can see a bunch of parents saying, ‘I’m going to jump back in and do it with my kid,'” said Sholl.

The other run-swim event is the East Beach Biathlon on Saturday. This test of endurance includes a beach run from the pavilion to the base of the Bellosguardo estate on East Cabrillo Boulevard, back to Stearns Wharf and returning to the front of the pavilion, followed by a 1-mile swim.

“It really pulls out good local athletes,” said Longo. “You got to be pretty fit to do that, you can’t come right off the couch.”

The 3-mile ocean swim is on Sunday.

“We kept that one because it’s been a tradition for years and years now,” Sholl said. “We got the trophy that we engrave the winners’ names on.”

The traditional festival finale is the 6-mile swim from the Goleta Beach Pier to Hendry’s Beach. The endurance event often attracts elite open water swimmers from around the country.

Santa Barbara Open Tennis

Tournament director Greg Tebbe has assembled a quality field for the 86th edition of the tournament.

“Yes, the tournament is much improved,” said Tebbe. “While the quality has traditionally been strong, this year’s field is one of the strongest ever with depth in every division.”

The tournament runs Friday through Monday. The venues include Santa Barbara High, Westmont College, the Santa Barbara Municipal Courts, Tennis Club of Santa Barbara and Knowlwood Tennis Club in Montecito. There is no admission.

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The Santa Barbara Open tennis tournament will feature several current and former Division 1 players. The tournament runs Friday through Monday. (Noozhawk file photo)

The men’s and women’s singles semifinals along with the women’s doubles final will be held at Knowlwood on Sunday afternoon starting at 2 pm

The men’s and women’s singles finals are scheduled for Monday at 2 pm and the men’s doubles and the mixed doubles finals at approximately 4 pm, all at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara.

The men’s and women’s fields include many current and former Division 1 players.

The duo of Camille Kiss and Marta Gonzalez Ballbe from UC Santa Barbara top the women’s doubles field. They helped the Gauchos win the Big West title and a first-round match in the NCAA Tournament this spring.

Carpinteria’s Stephanie Stone and partner Jill Gardner are another strong team. Stone is also playing with her son, Austin, in mixed doubles. Austin Stone was the Citrus Coast League singles champion from Carpinteria High.

Another women’s player to watch is Galina Bykova, a former tour pro and the director of tennis at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara Hotel. She’s playing mixed doubles with Garrett Patton, a former Boise State star.

Westmont’s Francesca Aguirre of Weston, Florida, leads the field in women’s singles.

Former University of Washington star Jack Davis is the top seed in men’s singles.

In men’s doubles, UCSB coach Blake Muller is teaming up with former USF star Matthew Berry. They’re seeded second behind Davis and Ewen D. Lumsden.

Another local doubles team is Taylor Chavez Goggin and Leo Basica. The former UCSB players are seeded third.

Former Santa Barbara High star and current pro player Graham Massen is seeded in singles and playing doubles with Matthew Chung.

There are a total of 160 entries in the open divisions.

“The total number of entries is significantly higher than in past years,” Tebbe said.

The tournament will use a unique format, where stronger players feed into the later rounds.

“The goal is to have level play throughout the tournament while limiting the number of divisions,” explained Tebbe. “Bigger draws with competitive matches throughout the tournament are the goal and I think we have achieved that with this tournament.

“In the future, my goal is to have an even larger tournament spread over multiple weekends with all levels of play. I am confident we will achieve that as players learn about our format through experience and word of mouth.”

Beach Volleyball Tournament

The Semana Nautica tournament will be played over two days at East Beach. The women take the courts on Saturday and the men play on Sunday. The action starts at 9 am on both days and the finals will be in the late afternoon.

Both competitions will feature a handful of players from the AVP Tour, including Santa Barbara’s Katie Spieler.

“This will be the most competitive event in Santa Barbara in at least the past five years,” said tournament director Jordon Dyer.

Ric Cervantes
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Ric Cervantes, shown in a previous Semana Nautica beach volleyball tournament, is playing with former UCSB setter Jonah Seif in this Sunday’s event. (Noozhawk file photo)

Among the top teams on the men’s side is Hagen Smith and Jake Dietrich. Smith is the son of beach volleyball legend and Hall of Famer Sinjin Smith. Other teams who contend for the title include Benjamin Vaught/Christian Honer, Raffe Paulis/Brian Miller, Kyle Friend/Timothy Brewster, Jacob Landel/Lev Prima.

Two of the top local teams include the Cervantes brothers. Ric Cevantes is playing with former UCSB setter Jonah Seif while Shane Cervante is combining wth Mike Stewart.

Top teams on women’s side include AVP players Chelsea Ross/Mackenzie Pomet, Audrey Nourse/Nicole Nourse, Spieler and Carly Skjodt. Other teams that could contend are Lindsey Knudsen/Delaney MeWhriter and Carly Khan/Kaitlyn Leay.

The Semana Nautica event is part of a three-tournament mini series that will determine a men’s and women’s spot in the Manhattan Beach Open.


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