6.2 Miles San Francisco Bay Bridge to Bridge
DATE OF SWIM: 4/20/19
To celebrate my 31st birthday, I hired a swim charter to lead my journey across the San Francisco Bay, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge.
Golden Gate to Bay Bridge
6.2 Miles, Current - Assisted
Pacific Open Water Swim Co.
(private charter) + best friend!
Right up until I jumped in the water to start the swim, I was terrified of sharks.
Relying on my swim community to guide me, I messaged everyone weeks before my swim asking for advice about sharks.
Does the boat I hired have a fish finder?
Are there sharks in the bay?
When was the last shark attack in the bay?
What kinds of sharks live in the bay? Where?
Do wetsuits make you look like a seal and sharks want to eat you more?
The reality is that there are 11 different species of sharks in the bay, but many of them spend time in deeper water and don't prey on people. Great whites are more often outside of the bay, and especially by the Farallon Islands. Shark attacks in general are also rare. Most of the shark attacks in the bay that occurred over the past 100 years were non-fatal, only 1 was unfortunately fatal in 1959 at Baker Beach. You can see a map of all of the shark attacks that have occurred in the last 100 years around SF bay here.
Testing out the Waters
A few weeks before my swim, one swim friend told me about the Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club. She recommended that I go there to talk to swimmers, get comfortable, and test out the water before the big swim. This was the best advice I've been given yet. Now, I won't swim new water without attempting to try it out before if I have time.
The day before my big swim, I went to the South End Rowing Club. I swam reluctantly without my wet suit because I didn't want to get it soaking wet before my big swim the next day. It was freezing! I stood by the water, knee-deep, really not wanting to jump in and swim. I eventually caught the attention of a lady swimmer in the bay who came to my rescue and urged me to swim with her. We swam together, to a buoy. The water was murky and deep blue. I couldn't see anything - just what I feared. Who knew what lurked down there!
After testing the waters, I went to dinner with my best friend from high school and her fiance. We unabashedly carbo-loaded. It was glorious!
"Like a Bowling Ball"
The next morning, still terrified of sharks, I set out with my best friend to the Golden Gate bridge to begin the swim. I hired a charter with Pacific Open Water Swim Co. to take me safely from bridge to bridge. Pacific Open Water Swim Co. is run by marathon swimmer Sylvia Lacock and Bryan Temmermand, both licensed USCG pilots. They met me for a safety briefing at a dock and we cruised over to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a gorgeous day and the sun was shining, by this time the morning fog had burned off.
My captains told me since we were swimming with the flood tide, I'd feel like a "bowling ball rolling down the bowling alley." I would swim a 10K in about 1 hour 45 minutes. To give some perspective, I normally swim 2.5 miles or so in that time frame. The water would push me along for a ride!
Eventually, it was time to get in the water.
Suddenly, my initial fear of sharks subsided and excitement took over.
I was so happy to have had the chance to check out the water before - I knew what it looked like, what the chop was like, etc. This helped immensely with abating my fear.
I dove head first and began swimming. I was gliding through the water effortlessly, that is, until my swim buoy started clonking me in the head due to the waves. My goggles also started filling abruptly with water. I had to signal to the boat and swim towards them to adjust my goggles (they gave me new ones) and take off the buoy.
That made all the difference, and I swam straight into the bay and chop, alone. You can see my fear of sharks was mostly gone, in this photo below I am giving a thumbs up!
Rounding Alcatraz was the most difficult part of the swim - the chop got especially bad around the area. The rock marks more or less halfway into the swim.
I was swimming too close to the rock, I could tell the tide was pushing me towards it. I started to stop in the water, a little scared. The boat captain's urged me to keep going - it was clear if I stopped that I would get pushed even more off course. As scared as I was around Alcatraz, I knew I had momentum and adrenaline on my side.
I put my head down and kept going.
To the Bay Bridge
Eventually, I made it to the bay bridge and crawled out of the boat. By this point, I was pretty tired from fighting the chop the entire swim.
My best friend surprised me with an adorable goodie bag of sea/beach themed goods (Swedish Fish, Dentyne Ice, etc.) and we cracked open mini bottles of champagne in celebration for the accomplishment!
I felt strong, refreshed, and happy.
I did it (and with skilled captains and my best friend by my side, to boot!)