Active City Spotlight: Triathlete's Guide to Los Angeles

With near-perfect weather year-round and a giant ocean perfect for open water swimming, Los Angeles has plenty of built-in advantages toward being a great triathlon city.

Add to it the mountains surrounding the city, perfect for climbing hills by foot or in the saddle. Add the enormous population, which naturally leads to a strong triathlon community simply because there's a a big pool to pluck from.

Add in the races that explore Southern California's beauty—and the local celebrities that participate and build the brand of those races.

Yes, Los Angeles is a great city for triathletes.

We covered running in Los Angeles and cycling in Los Angeles elsewhere, so here we will focus on the best swim spots in Los Angeles (open water and pool) as well the best triathlons to sign up for and the best multi-sport shops for all of your needs.

Places to Swim

The best open water swimming spot might be Tower 26 in Santa Monica, at Barnard Way and Ocean Park Boulevard.

The lifeguard tower is a favorite starting point (or ending point) for triathletes because of its precise distance to other landmarks. One mile to the north is the Santa Monica Pier. Two miles to the south is the Venice Pier.

Other popular routes:

  • Manhattan Beach is a popular swim spot. Start at the pier, swim past the surf (and surfers) and then go parallel to the shore.
  • For a south-facing beach, head to Malibu. Park at the large parking lot next to Gladstone's Restaurant, and get a swim in using buoys that are in place during the summer months. Another Malibu beach swimmers frequent is Zuma, site of the Malibu Triathlon.
  • Several pools in the area have long-course lap swimming. Try the Municipal Plunge in Culver City or the Argue Swim Stadium in South Los Angeles.

Races to Remember

The Malibu Triathlon is in the discussion as one of the most frequently listed races on the bucket lists of triathletes everywhere.

The Olympic-distance race starts with an ocean swim before the bike and run course takes participants through the stunning, affluent town tucked between the south-facing coastline and the Santa Monica Mountains.

As a bonus, many celebrities compete in this triathlon for charity, so a little stargazing can accompany your day.

Other well-known races include:

  • Herbalife Triathlon Los Angeles is a fun point-to-point race that starts with an ocean swim at Venice Beach, then makes its way inland toward downtown with a finish at L.A. Live (next to Staples Center). The race is annually in September.
  • The closest Ironman race to Los Angeles is not close—probably either Ironman Lake Tahoe or Ironman Arizona. The closest Ironman 70.3 race is Ironman 70.3 California, which is 80 miles south of L.A. in Oceanside.

Stores to Check Out

Triathlon Lab has two brick-and-mortar locations (3328 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, and 1512 Aviation Blvd. in Redondo Beach) as well as an extensive online setup. The store has everything you may need for triathlon training, from bike gear to transition bags to running shoes to wetsuits.

Other triathlon stores include:

  • Tri-Zone (3380 Cerritos Avenue in Los Alamitos)
  • Zone 3 Multisport (3216 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica)

One Last Tip

If the crashing waves are something you want to avoid during your open water swim, Tim Bomba of the L.A. Tri Club has a solution for you.

"It's a workout called 'chicken of the sea,'" Bomba says with a grin.

About a mile south of the Venice Pier is Ballona Creek, which is where the Los Angeles River meets the Pacific Ocean. There is a jetty here, and that jetty blocks the surf and allows swimmers to swim out past it. Then they can go north or south, parallel to the shore, and already be on the other side of the waves.

More: How to Pack Your Bike for Traveling

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