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San Francisco | Please tap on the glass

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Tag: San Francisco

Birthday swim

I have an embarrassing and…given the image I try to maintain…shameful secret. It needs to get out in the open so I can start the recovery process.

Here it is: as of a month ago, I had NEVER been skinny dipping.

Stop your judgment right there, mister. I’ve already said I’m not proud of this. Looking back at my life it is easy to see how it happened; trips to the beach were mostly family related, and every pool I’ve had access to frowns on that sort of behavior during lap swim. But this is no excuse. Add in sad fact that back in my early teens I lost the ability to do “just for fun” swimming, the idea of swimming in birthday attire never registered as sensible. But again, I’m through making excuses.

To further inhibit more recently contemplated attempts, the water at my local beach is super clear. Oh, and super cold. Super cold and super clear are not the conditions I want when I unexpectedly bumped into a fellow swimmer.

The good news is, this all ended a month ago. Thanks to the Suzie Dods 24-hour SERC-a-thon in San Francisco at the beginning of February, I found my first real opportunity. In brief, the SD24hSERCat1 was a 24-hour team relay held in Aquatic Park, San Francisco Bay, a sheltered cove sandwiched between Crissy Field and Fisherman’s Wharf occuring between 9am on 8 February and 9 February 2014. Unlike the Puget Sound, the Bay is turbid, with visibility just past the finger tips. It rained the whole time.

My first shift after sundown came around 8:30pm, at a time when the idea of again jumping in the 51 degree water still seemed like a fun idea. I’d just returned from having a drink with a few friends coincidentally visiting town that weekend, and rushed in to the South End Rowing Club to get ready for my turn in the water. Still debating whether or not this was a good idea, I put in my ear plugs, donned two swim caps, wrapped a towel around me to deck change, and part way through the process grabbed my goggles and walked out the door into the rain. When my teammate came ashore, I walked to the far side of the beach, about one hundred feet from where our rugged support team kept a vigilant watch despite the weather, tied my towel to the Dolphin Club dock, and dove in.

In my mind, it was subtle and stealthy. If it wasn’t, nobody has mentioned it to me yet.

Two loops of Aquatic Park, a mile and a half later, I came ashore, grabbed my towel, and headed to the sauna.

Here’s what I learned:

  • The cold takes over as it always does. As usual, there was nothing sexy about my first few minutes in the water – just the same old self-control and instinct-repression I’ve become so familiar with in Seattle.
  • After that, it is just swimming. I still dealt with the same mental issues as in every other swim that weekend, the same swimming-related issues, and the same personal issues that the sensory deprivation of swimming is so good at letting me dwell on. There wasn’t anything different.
  • When a kayaker shines a flashlight at you, consider using modesty.
  • People are usually too busy to notice what you’re doing. If you don’t make a big fuss, you’ll get away with a lot. (Turns out public nudity was banned in San Francisco a year prior to this event.)
  • If you are with the right group of people, no one really cares what you are wearing.

And now that I’m an experienced veteran at skinny dipping, did someone say Solstice Swim?


1 I don’t think we ever came up with an official title.

Swimming around San Francisco

[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.