Each fall and spring, the channel swimmer / bubble-cap aficionado / legendary South Ender known as El Sharko (occasionally “Sir Sharko,” sometimes shortened to “Sharko,” and just “Chris” to his wife) organizes a swim & BBQ at Heart’s Desire Beach in Tomales Bay State Park, north of San Francisco.
In homage to the white sharks who breed near the mouth of Tomales Bay, this event is known as the “Tomales Bay White Shark Swimming Association (TBWSSA) Chomp” (alternatively, “Tomales Bay Dangerous ‘Swim with the White Sharks’ Chomp,” often shortened to simply “The Chomp”). Sharko’s sanguine approach to the oft-repressed fact of VW-sized predators in our local waters is encapsulated by his calling card: “I never met a shark I didn’t like.”
The “Fall Chomp” of 2013 fell on what must surely go down as one of the most glorious days of the year: 80 degrees, windless clear skies all the way to the Farallons. Heart’s Desire Beach, about two-thirds of the way inland (8.5 miles) from the Bay mouth, lived up to its name.
I’m coming off a head cold, so I opted for a patch of shade and a book instead of the admittedly inviting Bay waters. Shallow Tomales Bay usually runs a few degrees warmer than San Francisco Bay, and was mid-60s F according to reports.
The swim portion of the Chomp was low-key and non-competitive. They swam north (into the flood) along the western shore for about a mile, and then back, escorted by a few kayaks.
Swimmers sighted on the famous shark fin as they headed out from the beach.
Post-swim, an alternative meaning of the “Chomp” became clear. Hungry swimmers feasted on clam chowder, BBQ’d Tomales Bay oysters, and sundry potluck items.
The Chomp concluded with… wait for it… a poetry reading. A comedic recitation of primarily swimming-, ocean-, or South End-related verse aptly called the “Wet Poets’ Society.”
Some read canonical poems (e.g., Whitman’s “World Below the Brine“), others read original creations (one favorite, an ode to the South End men’s sauna). Cathy sang her own Sharko Song, a cappella to the tune of “Rawhide.”
We made it back to the city by early afternoon, and the day ended even more spectacularly than it began. The sun set directly over the Farallon Islands, clearly visible 30 miles offshore, casting the unusually glassy Pacific in a startling glow.