This year’s race — the
14th edition — takes
place September 29.
Registration fees are $139
before September 13 and
$179 after. The deadline to
register is September 25.
Call 415.306.0716 or visit
more information. Proceeds
benefit Special Olympics
and Hospice by the Bay.
strategy is to make their move at the very end as they scramble up the beach to the finish line. Last year, freestyle skiing
Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley called the race for
television audiences, while John Naber and Rowdy Gaines,
both Olympic swimming gold medalists, broadcasted from a
command post on the deck at the Waters Edge Hotel.
As the elites jockey for position in the
lead pack and try to earn that $10,000 prize,
stretched out behind them are some 600
to 700 swimmers who do this for the thrill
and the challenge or to obtain the bragging
rights that come with just making it across.
For some it is a rite of passage shared among
generations of family — fathers, sons, mothers, daughters and grandmothers swimming
together. High school and college teams come
out to hone their skills and challenge their
rivals in good-natured competition.
In the predawn darkness of race day,
swimmers arrive, slowly at first, out of the
darkness carrying their gear. As morning light envelops the
scene, they come in a flood. Piles of belongings occupy every
nook along the wooden deck where the Angel Island Ferry
departs. In just 10 minutes they are on the island and headed
to the start on the beach at Ayala Cove.
As the swimmers bunch up along the beach, John Loberg,
the head starter, in red shirt and red cap, stands calf deep
in the water shouting directions through his megaphone:
“Elites, you gotta get back out of the water, we gotta see those
toes.” In the front line, the elites wear white and multicol-
ored caps; they’ll start first. Behind them are the “naked”
swimmers, those without wet suits, in red caps, and finally
those wearing wet suits, in green caps. Aboard the pilot boat
stationed about 50 yards off the beach, Mark
Leonard, vice commodore of the Corinthian
Yacht Club, fires the starting gun.
The start is not for the faint of heart.
Hitting the cold water brings a sharp jolt to
the system, whether you are in a wet suit or
not. Racers fight to make it out of the twist
of arms and legs as swimmers pile into the
water and set out for the open water and the
2,000-yard swim (last year New Zealander
Kane Radford finished first among the men
with a time of 21: 43; Melissa Gorman, from
Australia, took the women’s crown three
seconds later). Over the next 40 minutes,
one after another, the entire field of racers swims through
the yacht harbor entrance, around the docks at Sam’s, and
toward the small beach by the Corinthian Yacht Club. On
wobbly legs they emerge, up out of the water and across the
electronic timing mat beneath the finish gate. Friends, relatives and other spectators line the deck at Sam’s and all along
the seawall behind the finish gate to cheer them in. M
Opener, top to bottom:
Racers framed by
the Golden Gate;
Kan Radford of New
Zealand, 2012 elite
male winner. This
spread from far left:
(l to r) Ridge Grimsey,
Bob Placak, John
Naber, Rowdy Gaines
and Codie Grimsey;
the race is on; the view
at the waterfront.