Posted by: forgingahead | April 10, 2011

Alcatraz Clinic with Water World Swim

I did an Alcatraz swim clinic with Pedro of Water World Swim last Friday.

I think being completely exhausted from flying in from New York late the night before actually helped. I was simply too tired to be nervous.

It also helped that we were a small group and that my new open water swim friend Rachel was there too. We promised to stick together in the vastness which made the whole experience more fun. Maybe not a realistic preparation for the race though – I’m pretty sure I’m going to be all alone out there on June 5th.

Back to the clinic.

The morning was G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S! No wind. Lots of sun. One of those rather rare amazing days. We motored out to Alcatraz and before I knew it Pedro said jump. So we did. Right into the choppiest part of the Bay.

We practiced sighting and swimming through the big chop and I’m pleased to report that:
(a) the cold didn’t bother me one bit (thank you Zoot!)
(b) I was able to swim a decently straight line
(c) very little seawater was ingested

After climbing back into the boat Pedro pointed out how quickly the boat was moving toward the Golden Gate Bridge – sans motor. This is the reason he encourages his swimmers to get off the ferry at the start of the race as soon as possible. Otherwise, it’s harder to get out of the current that is sweeping around the island and toward Sausalito (in the opposite direction we want to be going).

We motored along with Pedro pointing out landmarks and showing us charts of the main current patterns that sweep through the Bay. This is all practice for my actual Alcatraz crossing in two weeks.

Oh yes, interesting data point to share. At the last “crossing” a couple of weeks ago only 3 of the 37 people who attempted the swim made it to shore. The rest were picked up by boat after struggling through the churn.

Why did so many struggle? It seems the abundance of rain led to overfull reservoirs which led to releasing a bunch of water which led to stronger and stranger currents. During our clinic Pedro kept shaking his head saying he’d never seen the water do this. Did I mention that Pedro has done the Alcatraz swim hundreds of times? He knows what he’s talking about.

So heads up Charisa and Kelly – Pedro is predicting a strange and challenging swim for everyone at Escape from Alcatraz. Oh goody.


  1. hmmm, uh oh.

  2. Sounds like the clinic was well worth it and Pedro’s advice will carry you far (and in the proper direction) come race day. Very interesting about the impact of rain runoff on currents.

  3. I never would have considered that all the rain had an impact on the current like that. Wow. Glad it went so well!

  4. Maybe it will help me by slowing down the fast swimmers 🙂

  5. You definitely are doing your homework for the swim, good stuff and it will pay off come race day.

  6. You will do great! keep up the great work.

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