Alarm set for 4 a.m., carpools meet or are even out of town by 5 a.m., at Aquatic Park at 6 a.m.
As the swimmers, ranging in age from 10 to 72, start to meet in the bleachers, tape up and grease up, the kayakers/lifeguards get their gear together.
7:50 a.m. As the kayakers paddle out, the pre-race speech is being given to the 900+ swimmers. People who have swum this course many times before (40+, 200+ times) are applauded. People from out of state or out of the country are recognized (Florida, Utah, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Carolina… Auckland, Calgary…).
At the island, the paddlers have a few minutes to get group photos (these are mostly lifeguards),
then the ferries approach from the far side of and around the back of the island.
As the announcer on the ferries starts counting minutes until the start and seconds until the athletes need to start jumping into the bay, the main group of kayak volunteers forms a start line and the lifeguards get into position. Then the swimmers start exiting the ferries and swim to the start line. One word was used over and over by the swimmers in conversation with each other after they jumped in: COLDER than…! (62 degrees with a few colder pockets).
9:00:27.2 a.m. The start is announced by a blast on a ferry horn. A few fast kayakers and the lead boat with huge red buoys show the way.
The volunteer lifeguards generally stay with the last of the swimmers.
Below, a view of the finish from part way across Aquatic Park, can you spot two swimmers? That’s why they are required to wear brightly colored race swim caps.
Fastest was a 25 year old male with a wetsuit 0:27:06.1, fastest female with a wetsuit was 25 years old, 0:30:13.0.
Among the non-wetsuit swimmers, fastest was a 49 year old male 0:31:17.0 and a 39 year old female 0:32:04.9
This was the 12th annual race and the fifth year De Anza trained lifeguards have volunteered.
An athlete wrote to the race:
I just completed the Alcatraz swim yesterday and I wanted to compliment you on the organization, the experience, and if you had anything to do with the weather, the sunshine as well. This was my first time swimming from Alcatraz and I was a little nervous. (O.K. I couldn’t sleep the night before). But what really impressed me was how SAFE I felt. Once in the water, the kayakers really kept an eye on everyone and while I was swimming, I could always spot kayakers nearby and they kept us all going in the right direction. Feeling that “watched over” took away all of my anxiety and I could swim and really enjoy the experience. I had a wonderful, fun time and I can’t wait to do it again. Thank you for your attention to detail and for taking such good care of your swimmers. Please thank all the kayakers as well.
Mary Louise Schmalz
Group photo below by Michele Lucien. De Anza people (L = lifeguard, S = swimmer, V = volunteer) at the 2004 Sharkfest race:
front row, left to right
(L) Ali Samievafa, (L) Gong Ye Chen, (L) who? (L) Michelle Minor Aceituno, (L) Brigette Valenzuela Keilig, (L) Colleen Muller-Robb, (V) Ying Cai
back row, left to right
(L) Mary Donahue, (L) Chris Throm, (L) Alan Ahlstrand, (L) George Cullison, (L) Marty Zhu, (S) Sylvia Lam, (L) Wendy Sato, (L) Shahin Zonoobi, (L) Brian Harness, (S) John Garnett, (L) Duong Nguyen
Present, but missing from the group photo, swimmer (De Anza Campus Center Director) Patrick Gannon.
De Anza swimmers times:
Sylvia Lam, (without a wetsuit), 19 years old, third in her age group/category 1:05:26.8
Patrick Gannon, (without a wetsuit), 14th in his age group/category, 0:47:08.6
John Garnett, (with a wetsuit, 25th in his age group/category, 0:40:18.9
Check out the three-year-old triathletes at:
guarding the Silicon Valley Kids Triathlon, 2004
For info on our volunteer participation in ocean swims or triathlons this year go to:
You might also want to read Tips for guarding open water swims