Craig Coombs - Around Alameda Island

Clockwise circumnavigation of Alameda Island

24 km (14.9 miles)

7 hours, 12 minutes on 9 September 2018

Observed and documented by Ranie Pearce

Course record



  • Name: Craig Coombs
  • Gender: male
  • Age on swim date: 57
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: Alameda, California

Support Personnel

  • Steve Waterloo - boat pilot
  • Danielle Ruymaker - support manager
  • John Zenner - boat support
  • Jeff Violet - beach support
  • Ranie Pearce - observer

Escort Vessel: Dakuwaqa (Alameda)

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Standard (Lycra) Jammer-style Swim Suit, Silicone Cap, Goggles, Ear Plugs, Lanolin

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: San Francisco Bay
  • Route Type: circumnavigation
  • Start and Finish Location: Beach 10m west of seawall breakwater at south end of Park Street (37.754011, -122.251619)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 24 km (14.9 miles)


Five previous successful round-Alameda swims (on a slightly shorter course due to the island's larger modern footprint) - 4 swimmers in a professional race in May 1927; and a solo swim by Al Kallunki in August 1951. See newspaper clippings below.

Swim Data

  • Start: 9 September 2018, 03:17:15 (America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
  • Finish: 9 September 2018, 10:29:19
  • Elapsed: 7 hours, 12 minutes, 3 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 64 67.6
Air Temp (F) 57 60
Wind (knots) 2 8-10

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 5 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Maxim, Chocolate Accel Gels with caffeine, a random assortment of squeezy pouches and some Oreo Cookies.


Observer Log


by Craig Coombs, 8 Oct 2018

What would you do if you learned there was an “unclimbed mountain” right here in the SF Bay? A swimming accomplishment that no one had done, and that you could potentially be the first to finish? That’s what I discovered two years ago when I learned that there were no documented swims around Alameda Island in its current configuration. Yes, there was a swim contest around the Island in 1927, before the Naval Base buildout; and the last documented swim around the Island was in 1951 when the island was only 14.66 miles around. That was before the South Shore build-out, the addition of the marinas, and the mudflats for a bird preserve.

Along with several friends from SERC and my MEMO (Marcia’s Enthusiastic Masters of Oakland) swim group, we went to work determining the best route around the Island. We quickly learned that the 15.75 mile perimeter had to be done only at certain phases of the moon, it had to accommodate two tide changes, and had to be completed before the afternoon winds kicked up. It took us two years to nail down the timing and for me to get in shape for the endeavor.

At 3 in the morning on Sept 9, 2018, my beach wrangler, Jeff Violet, and I weaved our way between the pot parties on the east end of Crown Memorial Beach and went to the water’s edge near the jetty. I slogged into the water at 3:16am, kept walking 100 yards straight from the beach, and then dove into water deep enough to swim in. The stars were beautiful that night since Carl the fog was elsewhere. I swam to my support boat piloted by Steve Waterloo, with the MSF observer Ranie Pearce, and my support manager Danielle Ruymaker with help from John Zenner. SERC support is the best!

I’ve never had a swim with more beautiful conditions. Good thing, because I had to swim from the SE corner of the island during an ebb to the NW corner in time for slack at 6:35. I hit that point at 6am and started to exceed my expected times for the next three miles. That put me nearly 30 min ahead of the record pace of 7 hours 38 minutes set in 1951.

I saw and heard SERC and MEMO support all along the Oakland estuary. The building flood pushed me up to 4 mph during a short shot under the bridges that link Alameda to the East Bay.

The arm and shoulder muscle pain peaked around the 4th hour, and stayed at a high intensity for the remainder of the swim. You know what that’s like. You just live with it and keep swimming.

When I came back around the SE end, I almost ended up in the shallow mud of the bird sanctuary. I kicked back out to the boating channel and then then made my way back to the starting point on the beach next to the jetty.

I finished the swim in 7hours, 12 minutes and 3 seconds, more than 26 min faster than the 1951 record which was set around a smaller island (14.66m).

Next step is for a woman to be the first to complete this swim and beat the time of a 57 yr old man!


Click to enlarge.


Historical Alameda Island Swims

Oakland Tribune, May 31, 1927 Oakland Tribune, May 31, 1927 Oakland Tribune, August 20, 1951