I know I keep saying it this week, but wow!!! What a crazy swim!!! This morning I woke up early and walked in the rain to Aquatic Park to meet up with about 9 other swimmers to go do a big swim from the Golden Gate bridge back to the park with Leslie from Swim-Art. We had some  Californians, New Yorkers, Vermonters, an Oregonian and an Illinoisan in the mix. While walking around looking for other swimmers Bob from Oregon yelled out his car window at me to let me know I could hop in his vehicle to stay dry for a little bit. I’ve been friends with Bob on Facebook for a while but this was the first time we’ve met in person… sometimes it’s nice being easily recognizable even in the dark with a hooded parka on :)

Eventually everybody else got there and we gathered up and started talking about the swim. Pretty much everybody was apprehensive about the temperatures because they hadn’t been in open water much since Fall. As the sun started to come up Leslie gave us a briefing and warned us that since the tsunami the water has been a little weird and we might be in for a challenging swim. Fully briefed we walked back across the park, made a pit stop at the South End to prepay our day use fee and drop our bags, and then walked to the zodiacs which were our ride to the bridge.

The ride out started flat but once we came around the breakwater and got up to speed it livened up a bit! We were crashing down on the bigger swells as we neared the bridge. Since the water was so stirred up outside the bridge the plan was to drop us about mid span on the inside. We had to do circles for a while before launching though since the kayakers had to fight their way out there to meet us.

Once it was go time Leslie counted down from 10 and we all spilled over the sides of our boats into the low 50′s water. I was paired up in a pod with my friend Amanda (who was sporting a Rob Aquatics suit today!) and I held by her side as she worked on getting comfortable in the water. As this was going on we got sucked into a weird whirlpool type thing! This has never happened to me before. Amanda and I were getting pulled in a circle while really unfriendly chop cracked us repeatedly in the head. She ended up throwing a hand up because she was stuck and frankly it was kinda scary. The zodiac scooped her up and I powered my way out of it with the kayaker who was trying really hard not to hit me with his boat as the water swung him around as well! They dropped Amanda back in the water a little later so she still got to do some swimming after our little whirlpool surprise.

I tried to get back to work and find a rhythm but it was hard with water being so amazingly rough. The chop was really unpredictable and even though we were riding a big flood tide it didn’t feel like it because you were getting all this cross chop blow in from the city. Our route was to basically aim for the first tower of the Bay Bridge then start cutting in when you saw the warehouses at Fort Mason. I stopped every once and a while to ask the kayaker if I was on course because it was so hard to see anything with the water being so active. He gave me an alternative sighting target up on the hill that was easier to follow.

I slogged along and best I can tell kept an ok line… well best one could considering all the pushing and pulling the water was doing. After the swim other guys talked about hitting over aerated spots that were almost impossible to swim in, and finding other small eddies that wanted to twist them around!

As we neared Aquatic Park the kayaker aimed me to the right of the TransAmerica Pyramid and I had to fight to stay there… now that I was perpendicular to it I could feel that flood tide! I swam right at the middle of the seawall on the right hand side of the entrance to Aquatic Park to make sure I made the opening, I really didn’t want to have to swim around the back door! Once I made it in I could finally relax a bit, but the current was still pushing inside the park. I thanked the kayaker tasked with watching me  and swam it the rest of the way into the South End Rowing Club. At the beach I took a deep breath, looked back at the bridge, smiled a little and then concerned myself with finding a shower.

I found a bunch of the guys up there and we recounted our personal versions of the adventure and then took over the sauna for a bit. I had to bail a little early since I had plans to go visit FINIS in the east bay this afternoon. I ran back to the hotel, packed, changed and hit the road. On the way there the weather really opened up in a bad way, it was some scary driving!

Over at FINIS I met up with my friend Sarah in the marketing department and she gave me the grand tour of the showroom, warehouse, etc. We talked shop for a little while and I got to see some stuff that’s been coming out recently that all looks pretty cool! I also picked up some new toys to try out in the pool when I get home from the open water conference… speaking of the open water safety conference, I’m there right now! I need to go mingle and meet everybody! Hopefully I come away with some good stuff to share with you from tomorrow’s excitement!

2 Responses to “Choppy, Whirly Golden Gate to Aquatic Park Swim”

  1. Keith says:

    hi Rob, great write up and pictures! I’m the local (slow) guy in the group – last one back to Aquatic Park. I’ve only been swimming in the Bay for about a year and conditions were the toughest I’ve experienced so far. Helps to know that a more experienced swimmer like yourself also found it challenging. Definitely crazy … but crazy fun.

    you have a great site. I’m slowly making my way through the articles.


  2. Rob D says:

    Keith – thanks! And good to meet you out there by the way! The ocean was definitely in a “mood” while we were out there… but that’s what makes it fun right :) Hopefully I see you out and about near the water sometime soon!