Sub-100 swims: Also known as “winter” for San Francisco open-water swimmers.
A sub-100 swim is when the water and air temperatures (in degrees F) sum to less than 100. For example, 50 degree water + 50 degree air = 100 exactly.
For our metric system friends, a sub-100 day conveniently converts to a sub-20C day, precisely.
Like much of the western U.S., San Francisco has been experiencing a bit of a cold snap lately. This morning at Aquatic Park we had 51-degree (10.5C) water combined with 37-degree (2.8C) air, for a combined total of 87 – which, I think, is a new all-time low for me.
I swam with my 6:30am group for our typical 45 minutes. Tellingly, the South End men’s showers were already running lukewarm when I arrived.…
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.”
Special “Chomp” course buoy, handmade by El Sharko.
Not explicitly mentioned here yet, but implied between the lines, is that I’ve moved again. This time, to San Francisco.
My new beach, a six minute walk door to sand, isn’t quite as “secret” as the last one.
Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Panoramic photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons – click to enlarge.
The “Outside Lands” of San Francisco, with Ocean Beach along its western flank, are reputed to be foggy and windswept. In my two months here – typically the foggiest of the year – I’ve found that reputation to be vastly overstated.
The Pacific Ocean from my window. Farallon Islands at center.
This Sunday is the annual South End Rowing Club “Pride Swim,” a short ~1.2 mile flood-assisted swim from “Coghlan Beach” (fronting the Golden Gate Yacht Club) to the SERC beach. It is one of many LGBT Pride-related sporting events in San Francisco, the Proudest among cities, and one in which I will Proudly take part.
Course route: “Coghlan Beach” to SERC
Recently long-time SERC member Daniel M. sent the following message to the club email list, detailing some interesting history, placing SERC in the context of gay rights, AIDS, and the progressive tradition of San Francisco.
This email is one of many reasons I am Proud to be a South Ender.
Full names have been abridged in the interest of privacy.
This “Pride Swim” Sunday is in and part of a great progressive tradition of the SERC.
I recently moved across town, and my new digs have one especially compelling feature: It’s walking distance from the Pacific Ocean! Fifteen minutes from door to sand: Two minutes along a sidewalk to the access trail; 11 minutes along a dirt path through an open-space preserve; two minutes down a cliff to the sand. As the crow flies, I’m about 2/3 of a mile from the water.
And it’s a gem of a beach:
Click to enlarge
Even on the sunniest days, it’s nearly deserted due to its vehicular inaccessibility. On the entire stretch of coast shown in the photo above (6pm on a weekday – prime-time for the after-work crowd), there were about five people. While tourists crowd the downtown beaches – East, West, Butterfly, and Leadbetter – this beach remains remarkably off-the-radar, even to many Santa Barbara locals.…
So, there was this local news item last week. While Santa Barbara isn’t typically a hotbed of shark activity, this was a reminder that indeed, sharks do live in the ocean.
That’s right, readers. Sharks live in the ocean.
It’s always interesting to observe how ocean swimmers deal with this fact.
Some take a spiritual, new-agey approach: If you just, you know, become one with the ocean and don’t give off the “fear signal,” the sharks will leave you alone. Fittingly and rather ironically, these people often are residents of San Francisco. (It’s OK, I used to be one.)
Others avoid the issue with euphemisms: “Man in the Grey Suit,” or “The Landlord,” or “Old Whitey”… or, most comically of all, “the S-word.” I guess the idea is, if you don’t talk about it, maybe it’ll go away.…
Of particular interest are the numerous shots he took at Chicago’s Promontory Point in the early 1940s. Through Cushman’s keen eye, we can see the Point was a special place even back then, when its great trees were mere saplings.
But Cushman was apparently drawn less to the landscape and water features of the Point than to the… human features. Specifically, women in bathing attire. The Point just happened to be an unusually rich source of subjects.
Here’s a sampling of Cushman’s work, with his original captions. The entire collection is available here.
Where are the sacred waters of American marathon swimming – the most historically significant swim spots? Aquatic Park (San Francisco), Brighton Beach (New York City), and La Jolla Cove come to mind.
But there’s another location – arguably as significant as those three – that remains remarkably below the radar. Promontory Point in Chicago. The Point was the primary training location of four Marathon Swimming Hall of Famers, including two Mount Rushmore-types:
Ted Erikson – First person to swim across Lake Michigan (1961). One of only two to swim from the Farallon Islands to San Francisco (and record-holder since 1967). Former record-holder for two-way English Channel swim (1965-1975).
Jon Erikson – First three-way English Channel swim (1981). Former record-holder for two-way English Channel (1975-1987) and youngest one-way (14 years old in 1969).
For the most up-to-date information about Anacapa Island swims, please see the new dedicated Anacapa Island page at the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association website.
A channel crossing is a special kind of marathon swim. From one piece of land, you swim to another, non-contiguous piece of land, with nothing but water separating the two. Unlike a lake or bay crossing, there are no shortcuts – you can’t fudge the distance by adjusting where you start and finish. Unlike a river swim, there’s no consistent current to speed you along. Indeed, the only way out is getting on the boat.
For Americans, the most commonly attempted channel swim is the Catalina (a.k.a. San Pedro) Channel. The second most-attempted channel by Americans is, I would imagine, the English Channel.…
The blog has been rather text-heavy lately. This post should fix that.
The Santa Barbara Ocean Ducks gather Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Goleta Beach County Park, and Sundays at Butterfly Beach in Montecito (plus Saturdays in the summer). It’s a diverse, friendly group of folks, and even this late in the year you can expect to see 8-10 of us in the water during the week; more on the weekends.
Typically we head out in groups of 2 or 3 according to speed. There are a variety of possible swim routes. Here’s one of my favorites (click to enlarge):
Goleta Beach to Campus Point
From our meeting place next to the shower head (west of the restaurant and pier, east of the restroom), we make our way beyond the surf line, 100-150m offshore.…
The blue whale is the largest known animal to have ever existed – up to 110 feet long and weighing nearly 200 metric tons. The whales are drawn to the deep waters off the coast of Southern California in late summer and fall to feed on krill (up to 40 million a day for an adult).
These magnificent, peaceful creatures were hunted nearly to extinction in the 20th century. Though still endangered, their West Coast population (estimated at 2,500) has been gradually recovering – to the delight of whale watchers… and swimmers of the Catalina and Santa Barbara Channels!
Check out this guy kayaking with them off Redondo Beach a few days ago. See, especially, the underwater shots at 1:12 and 2:15.
I’ve never been much of a museum guy – even less so when I was kid.…
I recently came across some stunning photo slideshows at Surfline – aerial shots of the Southern California coast. (They require you to watch a short ad before viewing the slideshow – sorry about that.)
The photos are geared towards surfers, but there’s great stuff for swimmers as well. Or for anyone – I can’t imagine who wouldn’t be awed by the power and beauty of the ocean and this magnificent stretch of coast.
My Dad surfed some of those same breaks (in Ventura County) on his longboard in the ’60s. I, on the other hand, never spent much time in the ocean as a kid – despite growing up in Santa Barbara.…
I don’t take pictures very often. When I do, I often forget to upload them to my computer… which means they’ll just sit there on the camera for months at a time before I remember to check them out.
Here are some pictures I took last fall at Promontory Point. Besides being the best swim spot in Chicago, the Point is also one of the more beautiful public parks you’ll ever see. In case you couldn’t tell: I love this place.
I’m back in Chicago after a salubrious fortnight in Southern California – a week with my in-laws in San Diego followed by a week with my folks in Goleta/Santa Barbara.
It was unseasonably rainy and, when sunny, unseasonably cool, but I didn’t mind. The stretch of south-facing coast between Point Conception and Ventura – with Santa Barbara at the center – is my favorite place in the world. Even the worst weather rarely precludes enjoyment of its blessed terrain.
Los Baños del Mar Pool in Santa Barbara, where I swam somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles as a teenager.
With holiday pool closures, schedule changes, and polluted ocean waters, finding a place to swim was an often frustrating quest. In San Diego I swam twice with UCSD Masters and once at the YMCA near my in-laws’ place.…
I want to congratulate my friend and fellow Point swimmer Ruth-Anne on completing the Ironman Cozumel in 16 hours 46 minutes. As an orthopedically challenged swim specialist, I can’t even begin to imagine tackling a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon run… after a 2.4-mile swim.
We open water swimmers occasionally rag on our tri friends for their neoprene fixation, but Ironmen and women are a special breed of endurance athlete. Not to mention, Ruth-Anne continued swimming in Lake Michigan sans-wetsuit through mid-November – longer than me by over a month.
Her triumph in the face of adversity (16 hours 46 minutes!) is captured in a wonderful blog post.…
This morning, while 45,000 runners sweated through an unseasonably warm October morning in the Chicago Marathon, I went for a nice long swim in Lake Michigan.
I was joined in this outing by my new friend Thomas – ultra-distance cyclist, fellow Point swimmer and, it turns out, owner of a sea kayak! After a recent Point outing Thomas had suggested that if I ever wanted to explore regions of the lake outside the swim buoys, he’d be glad to provide an escort. With the last blast of summer weather, the stars were aligned – I took him up on the offer.…