Burdette need not have worried. No sharks disturbed this rough-water swim, and John O'Brien, one of the few entrants to drop out, did so for apparently unrelated reasons. John, not yet 5, was entered in the 9-and-under class. But even as the PA announcer was introducing him as "the sentimental favorite," little John was cowering at water's edge, defying his mother's urgings to take the plunge.
"You'll be the youngest," she promised, but her son, lacking the requisite sense of mission, refused to budge.
John O'Brien's balkiness left three 6-year-olds the youngest swimmers. The eldest was the Reverend Lewis Sass� II, a 73-year-old Episcopal priest from Arizona who was vacationing in La Jolla. Father Sass� showed up in a gaily striped swimsuit and, after allowing that the scene could pass for a "mass baptism," boldly churned through the mile swim. He finished some 45 minutes after Gary Rees, a distant 206th in a field of 217, and came ashore with a troubled conscience that made clear he was no real ocean swimmer, either.
"I bumped into another fellow during the race," the priest said, roaming the crowded beach. "I'd like to find him and apologize."