1:1

[Photo credit: Edison Peinado]

It’s 3:15am on Saturday morning and I’m already awake. It’s 15 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off but I’m excited and ready to go. I can't wait. Because today I’ll be joining 20 other swimmers in the South End Rowing Club’s annual Bay to Breakers swim; an infamous 10 mile swim from the Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach.  Every year hundreds of thousands of people dress up and get silly for the annual San Francisco Bay to Breakers Run.  Only 20 or so folks dare to attempt the Bay to Breakers Swim, covering roughly the same distance, and wearing only a swimsuit.  It’s definitely not for the faint of heart because part of this 10 mile course takes swimmers west of the Golden Gate Bridge and into strong currents, ending with a notoriously precarious “landing” through massive surf on Ocean Beach.

But I’m up for the challenge, despite my one and only fear: being held under massive waves and not being able to catch my breath.  Yes, my one and only fear. I’m not afraid of sharks. While I do think of them from time to time as I swim, for me, that’s all part of the adventure and because I know it’s completely out of my control, I’m more at peace with this. Beach landings along dangerous shorelines such as Ocean Beach, on the other hand, are not only unusual, but, for the most part, avoidable. 

With that in mind, I was ready. I arrive at the South End Club at 4:20am and the club is already a hub of activity. I register as a swimmer – have the number 10 inked on my upper left arm and hand – and “sign my life away” with the mandatory waiver, which truthfully I don’t even read.

Joe rubs lanolin at the back of my neck and under my arms to prevent chafing. I hand him my feeding bottles of Perpetuem and packets of Gu, which I meticulously arranged last night. Due to safety concerns with this particular swim, there is a mandatory 1:1 swimmer to pilot ratio so Joe will be my pilot, kayaking alongside me during the swim, plotting my course to find the strongest current, administering my feedings, and keeping watch over me as I swim. We make a great team: I crew for his long swims (double Lake Tahoe length and solo Farallones), and he crews for my swims, including the Cook Strait swim. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that the person you love is looking over you. And we always have an adventure AND a lot of fun. Always.

Kim Kirby

London, UK