Kim Hedges - Muir Beach to Paradise Cove
Muir Beach to Paradise Cove, Tiburon
21 km (13.0 miles)
5 hours, 52 minutes on 18 October 2020
Observed and documented by Jenny Kline
- Name: Kim Hedges
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 42
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: San Rafael, California
- Ken Mignosa - crew, photography
- Ryan Nelson - crew, backup kayak
- Kirk McKinney - kayaker
- Jarrod Ward - pilot
- Mylan Trang - boat crew / backup pilot
|Hyperfish||38’ Delta commercial dive boat||Hyde Street Marina, San Francisco|
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: TYR polyester 1-piece swimsuit, goggles, earplugs, safety light, Desitin
From Muir Beach, south along the Marin coast, around Point Bonita, through the Golden Gate strait, to Paradise Cove in Tiburon.
- Body of Water: Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Muir Beach (37.858985, -122.576062)
- Finish Location: Paradise Cove, Tiburon (37.894014, -122.457034)
- Minimum Route Distance: 21 km (13.0 miles) (map)
No known previous swims of this route.
- Start: 18 October 2020, 07:19:56 (Pacific Daylight, America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
- Finish: 18 October 2020, 13:12:00
- Elapsed: 5 hours, 52 minutes, 4 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||53.4||59.7|
|Air Temp (F)||55||57|
Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: CarboPro/Tang/electrolytes blend; chocolate Skratch; plain water.
by Jenny Kline
This was a beautiful swim to observe. Although there was no prior information of the route, Kim was determined and had a strong, committed support crew – everyone remained excited and positive throughout. The weather was obliging – a glorious late-summer October gem under a cloudless blue sky with temperatures that started cool and climbed into the high 70s by mid-day.
The swim started well; Kim & Kirk found a safe place on the shore of Muir Beach to exit and begin. The first stage took place in relatively calm conditions with moderate wind that was not too disruptive. As Kim passed Rodeo Beach, however, the chop picked up and there was a series of patches with colliding wind and wave patterns, along with debris in the water, that made the approach to the GG Bridge challenging. The stretch under the bridge was relatively calm, but the conditions became erratic again outside of Horseshoe Bay, and Kirk flipped in his kayak. After struggling to recover he made it to the Hyperfish with little damage, but Kim was on her own in the water for about half an hour. Throughout the swim there were concerning fishing/speed boats, but captain Jerrod did an excellent job of warding them off.
Kirk re-entered as kayak support as Kim approached Raccoon Straits, and this was a fairly straight-forward crossing. The wind and chop picked up as we rounded the east side of Tiburon/Bluff Point, but Kim remained strong. Her stroke rate barely varied from 60 strokes/minute throughout the swim. She began to seem a bit demoralized as the current began to shift around noon, but her stroke remained consistent. There was a concerted effort to rally around her (including cheering by passing boaters), and she dug in and finished, swimming under the pier and exiting the water at Paradise Beach.
The crew was jubilant and the ride back to SF was bubbly and warm; as we passed Alcatraz, the fog rolling down the center of the Bay (fittingly!) suggested that this might have been the last real day of summer.
by Kim Hedges
Ever since I did a “Nutcracker” swim with the South End from Point Bonita back to Aquatic Park in February 2016 I’ve been starry-eyed about Point Bonita. I tried a couple times after that to set up a swim from Point Bonita with a friend, but it never panned out. So in 2020, when I was trying to figure out what longish very local swims I could do, something involving Point Bonita was definitely going to be under consideration.
Point Bonita back to Aquatic Park was too short for my interests. I started to wonder why I’d never heard of anyone starting “around the corner” from Point Bonita on the Marin mainland—e.g., Rodeo Beach or Tennessee Valley Beach. I asked around and couldn’t come up with a good reason to not try it. One of the people I contacted was Les Mangold, to get his specific thoughts on tides and routes. I had a weird aesthetic preference for finishing on the Marin mainland—start on mainland, end on mainland (when I told Brent about this in the early planning stages he said, “You’re going to be difficult, aren’t you”)—but there were too many variables and unknowns on this route for me to have an exact idea of what the timing would end up being, so I made a list of several acceptable endpoints, including ones on Angel Island, depending on how much flood I had left. The furthest endpoint, and my ideal one, was Paradise Cove.*
I originally scheduled the swim for September, but multiple large-scale wildfires were burning throughout California at that time, and on the last possible cancellation date with Brent the smoke forecast for the swim date looked too uncertain to me, so I cancelled. I could only get all the factors (tides, sunrise, etc.) that I wanted to have in place for this swim to line up once a month, so I had to push it to October—cramming it into what inadvertently ended up being a very busy stretch of swimming for me.
I had planned on starting at Tennessee Valley Beach, but a day or two before the swim the conditions were looking so good, and I was so excited about the rare opportunity of swimming in that stretch of water, that I asked Brent if moving the start up to Muir Beach would be OK, and he said yes.
It was a gorgeous morning. Muir Beach is not all that far from SF, but there is a certain eerie and unsettling feeling to watching the reassuringly familiar Golden Gate Bridge recede, recede some more, and then entirely disappear from sight (while also knowing you intend to swim back). Jarrod, the boat captain for the day, didn’t seem to have gotten the memo about the revised start point, so I had to reiterate to him, and in so doing recommit to, my plan to start at Muir Beach.
Off of Muir Beach, we dilly-dallied a few minutes waiting for gray light. Jarrod asked me something along the lines of whether I was ready, and whatever I said back conveyed nervousness. Puzzled, he said something like, “You know you don’t have to do this, right?” Before I could figure out how to reply, Kirk smiled and shook his head and said,
“There’s just something that makes us gotta do these swims.” Indeed. That response worked for me.
Jarrod couldn’t get the boat too close to shore, so it felt like a long swim to shore and then back to get near the boat again. I noticed there were a lot of birds around on my swim back to the boat; on some level I had a notion that this was not a good thing, but I didn’t think much about it. It was only after talking to others after the swim that I realized the birds had probably been an indicator of the presence of a bait ball, which I had thus probably just about swum through. Nothing like swimming through a bait ball in the Red Triangle to start off your day!
Conditions along the Marin coast were serene, stunning, and honestly as awesome as I could have hoped for. My crew told me later that they spotted a whale not too far off.
I was somewhat apprehensive about approaching Point Bonita simply as I’d never done so from around the corner like this, and consequently also had some bizarre fears, including of somehow getting sucked right down the coast past the Golden Gate Strait to, say, Ocean Beach. Fortunately, nothing like this happened at all, and we rounded the corner (also stunning by the way) fine. However, as soon as we did I was thrust into survival mode, as we were instantly met with very rough water. Kirk later described the water as “solid 4-to-5-footers, plus chop and bucking.” There was much tossing about— impossible to get any sort of rhythm or remotely proper stroke. It was a bit alarming. I couldn’t believe Kirk didn’t get thrown from his kayak; he looked like he was on a rodeo bull. I quickly got separated from both the Hyperfish and Kirk—in between them, but at a distance from each. For a minute or two I couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to try to get closer to, but eventually someone on the Hyperfish waved me towards Kirk, so I headed that way, in the direction of shore.
It was impossible to tell from my perspective at water level how long those conditions would last. Fortunately it wasn’t that long—I can’t say exactly when they ended, but I think they calmed down by the time we got to Point Diablo, and definitely by the time we were passing Kirby Cove. It was quite smooth under the bridge, not something that always happens. However, I remained rattled and my heart was still pounding from the literally rattling conditions a ways back.
Right after the bridge Kirk got word from the Hyperfish that there was an eddy up ahead; indeed, shortly after that I swam through what felt like strangely moving water. I think Kirk may have let his guard down in the deceptively calm water, because even though it was virtually flat, the strong current was enough to interfere with his paddling, and he flipped. (We found out later from Jarrod that the eddy was so strong that it was even turning the Hyperfish in circles.) I grabbed from the water the kayak paddle and as much of my feeds as I could find. He tried but failed to self-rescue onto the kayak, so he pushed it back to the Hyperfish and got on the boat. I swam alongside the Hyperfish for a while and thought perhaps I’d end up finishing out the swim with no kayaker, but eventually I saw Kirk appear on deck and get back into the kayak.
My feeds had been thrown off a little in the chaos off of Point Bonita, so I suspect I may have started bonking in Raccoon Strait. There was lots of boat traffic. For the first time I asked Kirk what time it was—I knew what time high tide was, so I had an idea of when we’d run out of flood. He told me, and I figured we had enough time left to try to get to Paradise Cove, so we resolved to do that.
I’m not intimately familiar with the Tiburon shoreline, so I had no idea around which corner Paradise Cove was located. I swear it was around two to three more corners than I expected it to be. I think for a variety of reasons here—bonking, frustration at not knowing where the ending was, and yet simultaneously now being sure that I would in fact make it, albeit slowly—I slowed way down at the end. (Also running out of flood, of course.)
Finally, the pier that I was a little afraid to believe was actually the Paradise Cove pier appeared. Kirk directed me to swim straight under it and head for a cement boat launch to exit there. He had originally planned on going around the pier to meet me at the end, but then decided he had enough space to paddle under it, which resulted in what I found to be a hilarious limboing-while-kayaking situation.
The boat launch was preceded by a lot of large, submerged concrete chunks, so after failing to stand up at first, I kind of slithered along them for a while until I got to flatter pavement. After I cleared the water, stood up, and rested for a minute leaning against the wall, I got back into the water; Kirk offered to tow me back to the boat, and I took him up on it.
I told several people in the months after this swim that this was quite possibly the best day of the year for me. Of course, that isn’t exactly saying a lot in a year like 2020, but I’d like to think it would still have been significant even in a more normal year. There are entire psychological and emotional layers to the experience of this swim for me that I’ve left out of this narrative as I don’t currently feel completely comfortable sharing them with the general public. But it was really a gem of a day.
* While I’m thoroughly happy with the route I ended up doing, I later realized that with that route I did not get to recreate what I found to be one of the best aspects of the Nutcracker swim, which was getting to be in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait— necessary to cross over to the shoreline of San Francisco and reach the endpoint of Aquatic Park.
Click to enlarge.