TEAM EFFORT: Reef & Run organizers see event hit its stride

Ocean swimming is Jane Cairns’ passion. And, with the Pacific as her backyard, she wanted a way to share that passion with the community.

Photo by Randy Weiss

Photo by Randy Weiss

The Team of the Month Series spotlights great
examples of teamwork in the local sports community

With the support of a few friends, she started Reef & Run to get people into the water once a week during the summer months. The weekly series completed its sixth year last week with a one-mile Boat to Beach swim. The event was sold out.

At sunset, Cairns was beaming on the East Beach sand as she watched happy swimmers make their way out of the water and jog to the finish line.

Her baby was grown up and people loved it.

“I’m so presently surprised and so pleased on how far we’ve come, from our beginnings standing on the beach with about 40 people,” she said. “And now, every week we have between 160 to 200 swimmers.”

The swimmers range from age 7 to 75.

“I’m really excited about all the kids that are coming out,” she said.

When the idea of a weekly ocean swim was hatched six years ago, Cairns was practically a one-person show running the event. After a couple of years, some of the swimmers realized she needed help if Reef and Run was going to grow.

That’s when Team Reef and Run came together.

Presidio Sports is pleased to recognize the group behind Reef & Run as its Team of the Week, presented by Sansum Clinic.

Local attorney and triathlete Joe Howell is part of the all-volunteer team. He recalls seeing Cairns running around, making sure everything and everybody was in place for the event.

“Jane was just worn out,” he said. “Everyone who had been competing every season looked at each other and said: ‘We can’t let Jane do all of this by herself.’ So many people have stepped up to help.”

Howell, Stewart Reid and Cara Gamberdella volunteered to secure sponsorships; Dan and Sandy O’Meara offered to do the accounting.

“Many other people just stepped up and said, ‘I’ll do this and I’ll do that.’ It’s been wildly successful,” said Howell.

Cairns also received the support from the Santa Barbara City beach lifeguards and the junior lifeguards program, which is the beneficiary of the money Reef and Run makes after expenses.

“We’ve gone through some growing pains,” Cairns admitted. “About three years ago, we totally changed Reef and Run. I got a really great group of my friends helping me put it on. I have a core group of people who volunteer all the time … it’s all volunteer. I actually have committees and people who help me.

“It’s definitely NOT my event,” she stressed. “I could not be doing this by myself. I tried at one point but it doesn’t work. You have to have a great group of people behind you. I have people who help in the springtime, putting in the time to get sponsorships. I have a financial team; there’s, Shelly and Marty (Wilson) who have been showing up for six years, helping with registration and merchandise. I have the junior guards …”

Shelly started volunteering in Year One. “They had a certain team of volunteers when we first started,” she recalled. “The event’s kind of changed over the years; it became a swimming event.”

Shelly married Martin Wilson and brought him on board. Together, with Eric Stees, they sell sweat shirts, T-shirt and hats and do anything else Cairns needs done.

“It started out as a grassroots event,” Martin said. “Today, we’ll get the Santa Barbara Swim club, UCSB Tri Club, high school water polo teams; it’s built more and more. We’ve gone from 75 people to almost 200.”

“It’s exploded in the last couple of years,” said Shelly. “The great thing is they have the 500-meter swim; it’s perfect to start out. I started with the 500, graduated to the 1k and last year I did the boat swim.”

Said Howell: “Reef and Run is one of the best community events I’ve ever seen because everybody is in it for the same reason. Essentially, it is to have a successful event and challenge yourself. And Jane is the heart and soul of the event.”

As she congratulated swimmers coming to shore, Cairns said she couldn’t be happier about the success of Reef and Run.

“It’s for the community, by the community,” she said. “All the sponsors are community people.

“That’s all I wanted,” she continued, “a safe ocean swim race in a safe environment for people coming out to race, or people coming out to experience it for the first time, or get better for their triathlons or ocean swims and have a nice little gathering afterwards. And give money to the community.”