Swimming to and around Alcatraz then escaping

I’m just finishing up a few days in San Francisco. The highlight has definitely been the challenging swim that I did around Alcatraz run by waterworld. 

I was a bit nervous about the water temperature after Hawaii, so the day before my big swim I sourced a few locals to swim around aquatic bay park with. We did a decent 50 min ish swim that reminded me that I am a perfectly capable swimmer in 16c. That same day was the Sharfest Alcatraz swim so I also got to see those swimmers returning.

The course for the ‘swim around the rock’ was slightly different to previous years but more exciting (and probably tougher the way things worked out – not sure the organisers quite anticipated how tough). We started at the beach towards golden gate park and swam with the flood (what the Americans call the changing tides) out to the island. That leg felt awesome and fast!

Heading around the island I thought I’d slow up and do a bit of sight seeing.  Unfortunately I wasn’t really paying attention to the swim and had a nice kayaker tell me I was in an eddie and basically swimming on the spot! I swam away from the island and tried to keep my distance after that. It was slow progress around the island so I probably got into another eddie or two.

Then for the return leg! It looked like a nice small stretch of water that could be easily conquered. Wrong! First was the washing machine like water leaving the island and then the current! I tried to keep it strong the whole way but it was hard to know if I was making any progress. That pillar on the Bay bridge didn’t look like it was moving. Eventually I worked out that every now and then I could see something I hadn’t seen before so must be making progress. Also, being an organised event I trusted that someone would tell me if I wasn’t making progress. 

It was a long leg and was super happy when one of the boats gave me permission to stop fighting the current and just make my way to the sea wall and go in from there. All up 2 hrs 12 mins. I’m not sure on exact numbers of finishers but estimate is that about 10 of the 25 actually finished. Many couldn’t clear the island in time so got picked up and dropped closer to the finish – they still got a challenging 2 hour swim however.  I got third women.

Afterwards I joined the Australians who were doing the swim on their way to do Manhattan Island (having just done Catalina!). We made ourself comfy in front of a hotel’s fireplace and then eventually found food. A really cool swim and day. The other travellers at the hostel think I’m a bit crazy though :).

The briefing:


Finish line with Alcatraz in the background:


Some of the awesome swimmers:



It wasn’t all swimming: