Swimmers take the plunge to participate in the annual swim from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore.
Members of the South End Rowing Club plunge into the Bay for the Alcatraz Invitational.
Every September, the South End Rowing Club—a historic nonprofit swimming, rowing and handball club in Aquatic Park—hosts its annual fundraiser, the Alcatraz Invitational swim, where people come from all over the world to swim the roughly 1 mile distance from The Rock to San Francisco. Usually in the low 60s, the Bay is considered warm by San Francisco standards. The event opens with an early morning registration, followed by a swim briefing, when tide information and tips for how to sight the opening of Aquatic Park from the water are explained. A bagpipe player in full Scottish regalia takes the lead, playing mournful dirges as he guides the procession of more than 600 swimmers toward the pier and into the boats. Once all are onboard, the ferries make their way across the chop. This is when athletes and novices alike are often seen stretching nervously and downing their last bite of a PowerBar before the foghorn blows, signaling it’s time to jump. Fog or shine, the views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from the water are epic. From tight-fitting wetsuits to simple ensembles of a swimsuit, cap and goggles, unique gear abounds, but participants all have a common goal: to become immersed in one of the world’s most famous bays, swim its exhilarating waters and experience the magic of what it means to be in San Francisco. Registration from $180
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco