Open Water Swimming Adventure: Alcatraz!
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Sharkfest, pre-race

Sharkfest finish

Post race, warming up!

San Francisco Bay: good thing this photo is a hoax!

ready for practice swim

Aquatic Park near finish
Alcatraz in background

Great Bay Masters Swimmers take on Alcatraz
A few Great Bay Masters tackled Alcatraz swims in San Francisco California this year. Elizabeth Kegode swam the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim Saturday, June 28. Jana Slezak and Ed Gendreau swam the South End Rowing Club's 13th Annual Alcatraz Invitational Swim on September 20.

Both swims follow the same general idea: a ferry takes swimmers to the water off-shore of Alcatraz. Swimmers jump off the ferry and swim to shore at the Aquatic Park. The Sharkfest uses a 'mass start' where everyone gets into the water, waits for a starting signal, then races to shore. The SERC race set people off in groups of three in rapid succession - jump off the boat and swim to shore immediately. Times are determined using a timing chip worn around the ankle.

This swim captures the imagination. Alcatraz has a fascinating history. It was once thought impossible to swim to shore due to the cold water, currents, and man-eating sharks. The Alcatraz swim races are timed for favorable tides & currents. One reference states 'In fact, there are no man-eating sharks in San Francisco Bay, only small bottom-feeding sharks'. Nowadays hundreds of people race from the waters off the shore of Alcatraz to the mainland every year.

Alcatraz swims finish at the Aquatic Park (history). There is a public beach at the Aquatic Park, and a sort of cove created by an arcing pier to the left and a straight one to the right of the beach. There are two swimming / rowing clubs at the park, the Dolphin Club and the South End Rowing Club. Both have a long, interesting history (video includes lots of fun with Dolphin and SERC clubs). Almost any time you walk by the Aquatic Park you will find swimmers making their way back and forth between the two piers.

The Aquatic Park is not far from the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39 - famous as a congregating place for sea lions and harbor seals. These guys can provide a lot of entertainment - constantly barking, basking in the sun, and jostling for position on the rafts there.

Doing an Alcatraz swim is an adventure to remember.

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