History of Malibu triathlon began with ‘jewel’ of peace officer events

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The popular Nautica triathlon has its roots with the Malibu Sheriff’s Station, which put on an annual race open to workers in the criminal justice system and public safety officers, police, fire personnel and lifeguards. The founder of the Nautica triathlon drew his inspiration from that race.

By Jon Love/Special to The Malibu Times

Zuma Beach, 1986. Two hundred swimmers stood poised for the mass start of the second annual Sheriff’s “Robert Amiel Triathlon.”

“Ka-Boom,” from the starting gun, and the race was on. The bravest thrashed through the surf to pick up an early 30-yard lead.

Police work is hours and days of inactivity interspersed with moments of violent action. The job is physically demanding, yet television news shows from around the nation show there is some truth to the stereotype, overweight cop.

But this isn’t so true in California, where the police culture encourages officers to enter a series of sporting events that demand a high level of physical fitness. These events include the LAPD’s world famous 120-mile “Baker to Vegas” relay, the L..A. Sheriff’s 5- and 6-mile Mug Runs and, since 1967, the California Police Olympics, which have taken place each year in a different city.

The ’70s were the hey-day of the 10K run, and Lomita Station was among the first units to put on one. Others followed-the first triathlon was in Castaic, in Westlake a biathlon took place. But for seven years, starting in 1985, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Malibu Station put on what most remember as the jewel of peace officer fitness events. This event, “The Robert Amiel Triathlon,” named for a captain who stressed physical fitness, was a grass roots effort by a handful of Malibu Sheriff’s deputies.

What many don’t know is Malibu’s popular “Annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon,” held annually for 17 years, can trace its beginning to the Sheriff’s “Robert Amiel.”

The Sheriff’s race was open only to workers in the criminal justice system and public safety officers, police, fire personnel and lifeguards. Held annually in early September, it brought as many as 400 participants from around the state.

Volunteers did the work of putting on the race. Some of these competed in the race and put in time before and after the competition, loading equipment, serving food and beverages and cleaning up after the picnic that took place in the station parking lot after the race.

In the 1980s, Michael Epstein had just graduated from college and was a member of “Team Malibu,” a local triathlon club. Other club members, who were lifeguards, had done the “Robert Amiel” and told him it was a great event. Epstein watched one of the races and knew he wanted to be involved

in it.

Epstein met with a lieutenant at the old Malibu Station.

“I told him I wanted to put on a triathlon in Malibu,” Epstein said, “and asked what advice he could give.”

“The lieutenant said the triathlon was one of his jobs. H e dropped what he was doing and walked me through the whole race,” Epstein said.

“The ‘Nautica’ is the same race as the ‘Robert Amiel,'” Epstein said. “I kept the short course. The only difference, besides a slight change in the run, is the ‘Nautica’ is open to the public.”

Today, Epstein produces 10 to 12 sports events a year. “The ‘Malibu Nautica’ is the race I started with,” Epstein said. “It’s my favorite.”

Over the past four years, the race has helped raise nearly $400,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS foundation.

The “Nautica” attracts 2,000 competitors a year.

“We could sell more tickets,” Epstein said, “but I hold it at 2,000 for safety.”

These days the race is filled with celebrity faces and also includes the Tot Trot 50-100 yard dash for children 12 and under. The Nautica Triathlon will take place Sunday, Sept. 14, starting at 7:15 a.m. More information can be obtained by calling 818.707.8867.