She hadn’t practiced with a team since grade school. Then in her 30s, one woman found joy in open water racing.


While Stephanie Hopson was swimming laps at the Santa Monica Swim Center, she used to watch the adult Masters swim team a few lanes over. At first, their skill in the water intimidated her.


“I had the idea that I wasn’t fast enough, but then I realized that it was open to all levels, so I decided to give it a try,” she said.


Hopson has always loved the water, but she decided to join the Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ) Masters team in preparation for her first official open water race in 2014.  She said she thought a coached workout would give her strong feedback for her upcoming one-mile race in Santa Monica.


From there, Hopson continued to make strides in the water. She went on to compete in the Brooklyn Bridge swim, a race that spans the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan.  A bit closer to home, she also took part in the two mile Pier-to-Pier swim from Hermosa to Manhattan Beach. 

Hopson competes in the 11-mile Portland Bridge Swim in July 2015

“Without a doubt, I know that being a part of a Masters program, and the wonderful coaches with SCAQ, has tremendously benefitted me and improved my swimming,” Hopson said.


In the months since Hopson began attending SCAQ workouts, she has dropped more than 12 minutes on her three-mile pool time.  One of her most recent swims was also her longest, the 17-mile Rose Pitonof Swim NYC.  And on Oct. 10, she participated in the Swim the Suck event, a 10-mile swim in the Tennessee River Gorge.


In between her races, Hopson plans to keep training with SCAQ at our Westwood, Culver City, Santa Monica*, Van Nuys Sherman Oaks, and South Bay locations.


“Swimming is my happy place,” she said. “I love the sound of my stroke, and I love the way it makes me feel. It’s a sport that not only takes physical abilities but is also 90 percent mental.”

Hopson at her latest race, Swim the Suck, in Tennessee on Oct. 10, posing with her kayaker Michelle. Kayak pilots guided and fed the swimmers through the race.


 You too can set fitness goals and accomplish them like Hopson. Come take the plunge. Get your laps in.  To maximize your time and help you hit your goal; you’re welcome to attend a free, coached workout to find out what it takes to get started, or to reach a higher level:  For professional tips for long-distance races, visit:


*For Santa Monica residents only. Interested swimmers must provide proof of residency.

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