Drought forces triathlon to move to Half Moon Bay

Among the many negative fallouts of the drought hitting California this year, at least one forced change could end up being a positive one for the Peninsula in the long run.

The Silicon Valley International Triathlon announced earlier this month it would move from Morgan Hill to Half Moon Bay this year because the water levels in UVAS Reservoir in Santa Clara County were too low to support the swimming portion of the event. Organizers and politicians say if all goes well with the event on Sunday, it could become a fixture on the San Mateo County coastside.

The change is not without challenges, of course. The event will now kick off with a dive into Pillar Point Harbor from the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club, where the surface temperature of the water is generally in the high 50s.

That will be the only element of ocean swimming athletes will have to contend with, though race director Ryan Coelho said the stigma may have scared some potential participants away.

“For people that have never experienced ocean swimming, that’s one of their biggest concerns,” he said. “When they think of ocean they think of waves coming in and crashing and so forth. People don’t look much further knowing it’s a harbor area or if it’s in a protected area, they just think it’s open water, it’s ocean, there’s sharks. There’s all kinds of things that cross their mind.”

To combat that, Coelho posted a video of the conditions on the event’s website, www.usaproductions.org, complete with soothing music to ease the mind and a special note that the famed Mavericks is “outside Pillar Point Harbor.”

He said working with Half Moon Bay couldn’t have been easier, and he had already been testing the waters with the idea of holding an event there anyway, something Vice Mayor Marina Fraser said the city would welcome.

“If this goes well, I don’t see why there’d be any problem to do it,” she said. “It doesn’t tie up several days, and depending up on how well this goes, I think this could be something that we could have annually. … I think we could manage an event like a triathlon, so this will be a good example and exercise for us to see how this works out.”

Coelho said a move out of Silicon Valley could be for the best anyway. The event is in its 22nd year, but has been run in the same area as other events, meaning many athletes skipped it after having already done an event there. He said he hopes moving it to a new venue, which would inevitably come with a new name, will draw more participants.

This year’s event will include 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. Running at the same time will be the Silicon Valley Sprint Triathlon, with a .35-mile swim, 9.5-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run.

Silicon Valley International Triathlon

WHEN: Sunday, starts 7 a.m.

WHERE: Half Moon Bay

START: 214 Princeton Ave., Half Moon Bay

FINISH: 110 Higgins Canyon Road, Half Moon Bay

INFO: www.usaproductions.orgBay Area NewsHalf Moon BayPeninsulaRyan CoelhoSilicon Valley International Triathlon

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