San Francisco

“Only the Bold Swim in the Cold”: Nearly 130 Swim in Annual New Year's Alcatraz Swim

Men and women of all shapes and sizes participated in an annual, if not zany, New Year's tradition in San Francisco, swimming in the chilly, choppy bay, as part of the New Year's Alcatraz Swim.

The temperature of the water on New Year's Day was 53 degrees in the water, and was in the high 40s outside, according to Roberta Guise, volunteer spokeswoman for South End Rowing Club, which has put on the swim every year since the 1960s.

So, it wasn't the cold that hindered the swimmers at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, it was the currents.

Usually the swim is 1.4 miles, but many ended up swimming close to two miles, as the currents pushed them east, in toward the Bay Bridge.

"It was very choppy," Greg Mitchell said as he finished the swim. "The water temps were OK but it was very rough. But here we are. It's a great way to start the new year."

Delia Salomon came in first - in less than an hour. She, too, noted the rough waters. But she still had a lot of fun.

"It's a lot of camaraderie," she said, "and great to be with people into the same thing as you."

Guise said 128 people came out Thursday, getting dropped off in boats at the edge of the island before swimming to shore. When they emerged,  they were greeted with congratulatory cheers.

Many swimmers pumped their fists in the air and grabbed a paper cup of Jameson's Irish Whiskey, topped with whipped cream.

And while there is no rule about it, Guise said only "one or two" people suit up in wetsuits, the rest go without.

"We're very hardy," Guise said. "Only the bold swim in the cold."

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