Swimming around San Francisco
by Andrew Malinak
[Originally published in Please Tap on the Glass at USMS Blogs on 26 April 2013.]
Yes, that title is a bit misleading. Yesterday was my last day in San Francisco. Despite being sent for work, I managed to turn this mostly-paid-for trip into a great opportunity to do a lot of swimming in the Bay area.
It began early Saturday morning. My first glimpse of the Bay, the first since my dad brought me on a whirlwind West Coast tour fifteen years ago, was gorgeous. The sky was rosy, the water sat flat, and Alcatraz looked close. Which was great, since at a few minutes past 7am, I jumped off the Aquatic Center beach with a handful of others to go out to, around, and back from Alcatraz with the Swim Around the Rock (hosted by Water World Swim). What a great start to seeing a new city!
A swim report this is not, so I’ll skip over how I got a bit lost, fought some currents, and had a generally scenic, uneventful swim. In the end, I made it back. Since January, I’ve been training almost exclusively in the Puget Sound at Seattle, no wetsuit, 45 to 47 degrees, so the ~53 water in the Bay felt perfect! Single cap, suit, and no ear plugs with only the slightest of shivers at the end.
The swim was nice, but not the aquatic highlight of the trip. My father’s old college friend, an OW swimmer himself, stopped by the race and we had brunch afterwards. Upon hearing I’d be working near San Jose later that week, he sent a text to his niece, a swim coach down there, asking where I may be able to jump in a pool to do a few laps. The rest of the weekend, swimming-wise, was uneventful aside from a trip to the Sutro Bath ruins.
It was through her, my father’s frat-brother’s niece, that I found the Santa Clara International Swim Center. Sneaking out of work for a few hours (something I’ve gotten very good at), I arrived at noon to find an eight lane, 50m outdoor pool. Aside from the heat, both aquatic and solar, everything about this pool was perfect. A far cry from the public pools back in NYC, and for the same price of $3. It turns out that the pool only runs long course on Monday, but Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s short course sessions were offset by the presence of 22 lanes, one of which was all mine for a full 90 minutes.
With work wrapped up Wednesday night and a flight not until mid-day Thursday, I drove back up to the Aquatic Center on my last morning for a visit to the Dolphin Club. In short, I need to go back, but with a guide. The history, tradition, and sheer awesomeness of the place was evident, but I feel I missed so much of it! Herds of swimmers in and out of the water and up and down the stairs, highways of wet footprints across the floor…yet somehow no conversations other than how to use the locker room and what a good swim course might be. During a few loops of the Aquatic Park, I found myself missing the cold, clear waters of the Puget Sound. And the friends to shiver through a post-swim cup of coffee with. Time to go home.