Swimming, tennis and beach volleyball take center stage in the return of Semana Nautica | Sports

Ocean and pool swimmers, elite volleyball and tennis players and other finely conditioned athletes will be engaged in wholesome competition over the next two weeks as Semana Nautica, Santa Barbara’s summer sports festivalmakes its triumphant return.

The festival has not taken place for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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

On the sands of East Beach, professional, California Beach Volleyball Association-ranked male and female beach volleyball players will compete 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 talent pool.

Club swimmers from across Southern California will return to the 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, president of Semana Nautica and avid swimmer, is delighted that the festival is back in business.

“Wow, it’s great to be able to be out there and do our usual thing and be active and be on the beach with each other. Thank goodness,” he said.

Longo said the quality of athletes competing in Semana Nautica is impressive.

“It’s a good thing about sports in general in Santa Barbara. I think we attract top athletes in just about every sport you can imagine. Granted, we don’t have a professional basketball, baseball, or football team, but in all other sports, whether it’s running, swimming, tennis, you name it, we have big names here.

Semana Nautica, however, is about everyone’s participation, he stressed.

“These Semana Nautica events tend to be pretty damn competitive. At the same time, they are open to everyone,” Longo said. “It’s competitive, but it’s not a cutthroat competition for the average athlete who wants to get out there and swim or run or whatever.”

City of Santa Barbara Aquatic Supervisor Tony Sholl is happy to see things back to normal.

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The East Beach Run-Swim Biathlon is one of Semana Nautica’s long-running events. (Noozhawk file photo)

“Santa Barbara is a great ocean swim-triathlon community, so the return of ocean events is really nice for everyone to come back to there.”

Sholl restored the 2-mile ocean swim, which has been one of the festival’s original swim races since the early days. It will take place on Saturday.

“We wanted to get back to tradition with this,” he said.

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

The 1 mile swim was on the first Saturday. It is now included in Thursday’s Reef & Run swim series for the next two weeks.

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

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

“It’s one of the traditional events that we do with the young lifeguards (from the city of Santa Barbara),” 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 sort of said what it was: a bunch of swims and a bunch of runs.

Participants start on the shore in front of the Cabrillo Pavilion, run to each lifeguard tower on the east side of Stearns Wharf, swim to a buoy and return at each stop and continue the pattern 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 expects to see many former junior guards who are now parents participating in the event.

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

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

“It really attracts good local athletes,” Longo said. “You have to be fit enough to do this, you can’t get off the couch.”

The 3 mile sea 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 on which we engrave the names of the winners.”

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

Operation Santa BarbaraenTennis

Tournament Director Greg Tebbe has assembled a quality line-up for the 86th edition of the tournament.

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

The tournament takes place from Friday to Monday. Venues include Santa Barbara High, Westmont College, Santa Barbara City Courts, Santa Barbara Tennis Club, 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 semi-finals as well as the women’s doubles final will take place in Knowlwood on Sunday afternoon starting at 2 p.m.

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

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

UC Santa Barbara duo Camille Kiss and Marta Gonzalez Ballbe lead the women’s doubles field. They helped the Gauchos win the Big West title and an NCAA Tournament first-round game this spring.

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

Another player to watch is Galina Bykova, a former Tour professional and director of tennis at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara hotel. She plays mixed doubles with Garrett Patton, a former Boise State star.

Westmont’s Francesca Aguirre, of Weston, Fla., 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 teams up with former USF star Matthew Berry. They are ranked second behind Davis and Ewen D. Lumsden.

Another local doubles team is Taylor Chavez Goggin and Leo Basica. Former UCSB players are ranked third.

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

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

“Total admissions are significantly higher than previous years,” Tebbe said.

The tournament will use a unique format, where the strongest players power the later rounds.

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

“Going forward, my goal is to have an even bigger tournament spread over multiple weekends with all levels of play. I’m confident we’ll get there as players experience our format through the experience and word of mouth.

Beach volleyball tournament

The Semana Nautica tournament will take place over two days at East Beach. The women enter the courts on Saturday and the men play on Sunday. The action starts at 9 a.m. on both days with the finals taking place 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 for at least five years,” said tournament director Jordon Dyer.

Ric Cervantes
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Ric Cervantes, featured at a previous Semana Nautica beach volleyball tournament, plays with former UCSB setter Jonah Seif at this Sunday’s event. (Noozhawk file photo)

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

Two of the best local teams include the Cervantes brothers. Ric Cevantes plays with former UCSB setter Jonah Seif while Shane Cervante combines with Mike Stewart.

Top female teams include AVP Chelsea Ross/Mackenzie Pomet, Audrey Nourse/Nicole Nourse, Spieler and Carly Skjodt. Other teams that could face off 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 spot for men and women at the Manhattan Beach Open.