Upcoming 2024 “ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ” (kayak/SUP)

     January 14, 2024
    • Kayaker/SUP Registration
       June 9, 2024
       5:45 am - 11:15 am

    November 2015 Alcatraz Crossing - San Francisco, CA, USA

    June 9th is when triathletes from around the world will Escape from Alcatraz - a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shoreline.

    Water World Swim is recruiting kayakers and SUP paddlers to help these triathletes make it safely from Alcatraz to St. Francis beach on the first leg of their race. If this is your first event, you are welcome to sign up. You will receive instructions before the event, an extensive briefing that morning, and there will be lots of help on the water.

    You'll get paid to paddle! We'll have a limited selection of kayaks for you if you don't have one.

    If you have never paddled an Alcatraz Event before this is the biggest one in the bay with a ton of support!

    If you're not sure if you are ready or want some extra practice in the bay try coming out to one of our weekly swims or contact us and we'll work with you!  (We don't usually have extra boats for weekly swims or other events though.)

    If you've paddled with Water World before and want to be a pod leader contact Coach Patrick at patrick3@waterworldswim.com

    Paddlers will meet up early morning at Aquatic Park in San Francisco, where you can set up your gear on the beach or pick up a loaner kayak.  After sign-in, paddlers will receive instructions and a walk-through of the event. Then we hit the water and paddle out to the east side of Alcatraz where we meet the boat and up to 2,000 swimmers jump in the water. Along with many powered vessels, police jetskis, and the Coast Guard, we will escort the swimmers safely to St. Francis Beach, between the San Francisco Yacht Club and Crissy Field Beach. We then paddle back to Aquatic Park to finish the event.

    If you have questions, please email me at patrick3@waterworldswim.com and feel free to pass this along to your friends who might be interested.


    --- --- ---The "Escape Plan"--- --- ---

      Our plan is to paddle out and make a “fence line” of kayakers to keep the swimmers aimed in the right direction.  (We aim them upstream of the current on a course we paddle and swim often.)  We’ll cover this more before the event and give you specific assignments the morning of the event. Newer paddlers or those without a “Marine VHF radio” will be paired with an experienced “Pod Leader”  that can direct you at the start.  


      Our Mission is to facilitate a safe event.  Sometimes we just redirect a swimmer, sometimes we lend them a boat to hold onto for a second, sometimes we call for help (there’s a ton of support boats!) and get them onto a boat.  First and Foremost keep yourself safe.  Make sure you are dressed for cold water, sun, wind and weather. Bring dry clothes and leave them in the car. Double bag any electronics somewhere it cant fall in the bay. Bring water and a snack and a positive outlook and "Don't forget to stop and smell the pelicans..."


    Paddlers will launch from Aquatic Park    Swimmers Finish at. Saint Francis Beach

    Paddlers then Paddle back to Aquatic Park (about a mile)


    Please review your responsibilities as a kayaker before signing up.

      05:45 am - Meet at Aquatic Park, gear up, and sign in.

      06:15 am - Briefing. Be fully ready to launch at this time.

      06:45  am - Launch and begin paddling to the jump point.

      07:15 am - Swimmers jump and swim starts.

      Average Swimmer finishes in 45 min but some take longer.

      08:15am (ish) As the last swimmers finish, paddlers return to Aquatic Park (takes 20-30 min depending on paddler and conditions.) 

    Meeting Place and Parking-  

    Meet On the far right of Aquatic Park Beach next to the swim clubs and Hyde Street pier.  

    Parking On Jefferson is limited but it’s a good spot to drop off your boat.  Parking is best on Beach St behind the Maritime Museum or on Van Ness ave.  (see Picture) 


    Float Plan for;

      Alcatraz to St Francis Yacht Club



    • Launch from Aquatic Park.  Paddle to the end of the seawall. After the seawall Do Not turn left toward Alcatraz but continue straight toward the end of pier 39. When you are at least ½ way to Pier 39 turn slightly left and aim toward Treasure Island.  It feels out of the way but the currents will help push you toward Alcatraz instead of past it.  Don’t paddle straight at Alcatraz as the currents typically push hard to the left.  It’s up to paddlers to gauge the wind and current and decide the best line on the day. 


    !!! The Current will be a strong EBB that day (that is moving from right to left!!!

    !!! If you paddle directly toward Alcatraz the current will push you off course!!!


    Paddlers station to the east side (Toward the Bay Bridge) of Alcatraz and towards San Francisco.  The actual spot of the drop varies so it’s best to stay a little up stream (depending on wind and currents) and listen to radio traffic. 

    (if you do get swept downstream just keep trying, we may send a small boat to help you or have you aim back toward shore once the swimmers jump. The swimmers will definitely float to meet you!)



    • After the “Jump” swimmers should be pointed Directly South toward Aquatic Park and the “Two Towers” / Fontana Towers. 
    • Swimmers will spend most of their time aimed South and not pointed at the finish. 


     Common “Sightings” 

    (Landmarks to aim swimmers toward that are visible from the water)


    • The Two Towers Apartments”  

    Just to the right and inside Aquatic Park are two large apartment buildings located on Van Ness ave. They are Tall, stone, rectangular and Symetrical and almost on the water.   These are usually very visible from the water. 

    • “Fort Mason”

    Three large piers under white buildings with red roofs stick out into the bay. 

    • “Palace of Fine Arts 

    The iconic dome and stone pillars of the Palace of Fine arts.  

        “The Wave Organ”  

    The Wave organ or Coglan’s Beach is the small rocky outcropping east of St Francis.  Keep swimmers 50+ feet away (offshore) of the rock wall until they pass the “B”  Buoy.

    • “St Francis Yacht Club” 

    The red roof building with big windows on the water’s edge is St Francis.  

    • “The ‘B’ Buoy”

    The B Buoy sits off the western windows of St Francis Yacht Club.  Swimmers should be passing it almost touching their LEFT shoulder then immediately turning hard left.  The drift should push them to the beach.

    •  “St Francis Beach”  

    St Francis Beach is a small beach just to the right of the Yacht Club. It is NOT visible from Alcatraz or during most of the swim.  The long beach visible from a distance is East Chrissy Beach and is too far.

    Weather, Currents And Tides



    Equipment reminders:

    • PFD or Lifejackets are REQUIRED by US Coast Guard for any paddler kayak or SUP.
    • Marine radio.  We usually use Channel 72 though that may change. 
    • Sound producing devices, such as a whistle or air horn, required 
    • Warm Clothing and a Windbreaker.  Dress for the water and in layers. 
    • Wetsuit, paddle pants, or kayak clothing.  No cotton hoodies!  Dress for the water.
    • Water, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, chapstick etc.
    • Pocket snacks, bars or Gel for on the water.  
    • Warm dry clothing for after the paddle.
    • A Dry bag for keys, phones etc.  We recommend ‘doubling up’ for safety.
    • A smile… If you don’t have one ask us… we have plenty to share! 

    Please review the paddler guidelines here, including details about PFDs:



    • Cold!  The water temps are 52-55’ Swimmers can get panicked, disoriented and hypothermic and so can paddlers!  Make sure you are dressed for the water, not the sunshine.  Many paddlers wear wetsuits or neoprene paddle outfits plus a windbreaker. 
    • Currents!  Currents in the bay can reach several knots pushing both paddlers and swimmers off course either into or away from the shore.  This year's Ebb currents have been stronger than expected due to extreme levels of snowmelt.  Plan on paddling more upstream than usual  
    • Other Boats!  Part of why we are there is to be as visible as possible.  Beware of large ships (container ships) as they move much faster than you expect.  Never get in front of a container ship.  Smaller boats may try to cut through the course.  If they do,  stay close to your swimmers and let us know on the radio. 

    On the Radio;  Generally Channel 72

    Speak Clearly and slowly.  Say who you want to talk to  and give your name so we know who we’re talking to. (i.e.  “Patrick this is (your name) do you see that sailboat to the west?”

    Give a Location:    Give a brief description of where you are and what you look like.  (i.e.  “I’m on the west side of the course, near the back with a yellow paddle up.”)

    Stay Calm   (or fake it and Sound Calm)  it’s easier to understand on the radio and it keeps the swimmers calmer.  Paddlers too!

    Keep the Channel Clear.  Remember we have one (1) channel for everyone to share and there may be other boaters or events in the background too!  Save the stories till afterwords please. 

    If in Doubt Wave and Shout!  Radios malfunction, batteries die.  Sometimes we can’t hear.  Uf your radio isnt working and you need help, put your paddle straight up in the air and keep it there.  Blow your whistle or shout for another kayaker to assist you and they can use the radio. 


    ! Your Safety Comes First! 

    ! Never put yourself at risk and stay in your boat. 

    ! Sometimes the best thing to do is call for help!

    •  Minor Issues.  Swimmers often have minor issues and may need assistance. Sometimes they just need a moment to acclimate to the cold, sometimes a reassuring paddler nearby can help them stay calm and keep swimming.  
    • Check with the swimmer by using the “Are You Okay?” (one Fist tapping the top of your head) signal.  They may continue or they may ask to hold on to your boat. 
    • Tell the swimmer to Grab the Bow (front)  of your boat.  If they grab the sides or try to climb on board they may tip you over!
    • Ask the swimmer “Do You Want to Continue?” If they say yes then keep an eye on them but let them continue.  If they say No or are unable to answer or panicking then Signal for Help.
    •  Medical Emergencies.  Aka “BLUE SWIMMER”
    1. Any swimmer that is confused, looks lost, is unable to swim, breathe or keep their head above water or who is being kept afloat by another swimmer should be considered an emergency and immediately pulled out of the water. 
    2. Any complaints of severe medical problems should be signaled for pickup and medically evaluated on the boat Not in the Water.
    •  “Signal for Pickup”
    1. A swimmer may be cold, tired or feeling ill or just unable to continue.  If the swimmer has been holding onto your boat for more than a minute or so or just wants to ride the boat home paddlers should signal for pickup.  This is for Non-emergency pickups and may take some time but Stay with this SwimmerI until they are on the boat or decide to continue. 
    • On the Radio-  Radio “Waterworld Waterworld this is paddler (your name) Signal For Pickup” and give your location and description. (i.e.  “yellow kayak, red Pfd. We’re a quarter mile off of Fort Mason”…(or wherever you are.)
    • Then Keep Your Paddle Up!  Keep your paddle straight up and down so we can see you from far away.


        !  If a swimmer becomes unconscious try to keep their head above water. Don’t get out of your boat!  Grab their wetsuit or an arm or whatever you can, enlist other swimmers and paddlers to help.  Call for help on the radio (“say BLUE SWIMMER 3 times and give your location”  

       ! Don’t let a swimmer try to climb on board your kayak or Sup!  They will knock you both in the water.  Give them the bow of your boat and have them hold on.  They just have to keep their head out of water until pickup,  

       ! Keep the swimmer talking.  Ask them questions like where they are from etc.  Keep them focused.

    Swimmers in Distress (tips)

    1. Any swimmer waving at you should be considered to be in distress
    2. Any swimmer not moving in the water, not swimming, back floating (or obviously front floating) is considered to be in distress. 
    3. A swimmer that stops, turns around as if lost, keeps looking back at the boat or starts swimming backwards on the course may be in distress. 
    4. A swimmer that stops for too long, is floating vertically without trying to swim, that takes off their goggles or has problems with their gear for more than a few seconds may be in distress. 
    5. A swimmer that starts and stops, can't catch their breath or keep swimming may be in distress, but they may still finish the swim.  Reassure them that they’re not alone and they can keep going or stop anytime they want without judgment.  They can even get dropped off closer to the end so they can tell everyone that they ‘finished.’

    Other situations   

    1. Be Encouraging.  Some swimmers have never tried anything like this before. 
    2. Take Care of the Basics.  Sometimes a swimmer just needs help with a wetsuit zipper or a second to fix leaky goggles
    3. Panicked swimmers may just need some psychology work. Calm them, see where they are mentally, and get them moving forward. It might just be some reassurance that is needed.
    4. Do not worry about time, focus on getting the athletes along the route. This will be a long swim. There will be a period when swimmers will be actively relocated. They may not like it. Swimmers are NOT DISQUALIFIED, and are being moved to a more advantageous position in the water.  Remind them that it happens to us all sometimes!
    5. Watch for hypothermia. Visual Shivering, pale skin, numb fingers and hands. Hypothermic swimmers are considered “medical” and should be called in. If you are unsure… call for a pickup.  We can always assess a swimmer on the boat and drop them back in.
    6. Don’t Diagnose on the Water.  We’re there to guide, assist and rescue.  If they need more interventions or assessment we’ll do it on the boat.
    7. Don’t tow the swimmer.  No kayak Uber please!  We don't want you getting exhausted or hurt by towing a swimmer.  They can hang on for a  minute or two after that call for pickup… (If the swimmer can’t keep swimming they’re going to get colder and colder and be less likely to continue.) 
    8. Uncooperative or Abusive swimmers, Swimmers that will not stay on course, ignore directions or are abusive, threatening or otherwise disruptive should be communicated to the lead kayaker and vessel support.   Obtain a name or number, and pass the info that you need an assist. It is possible the swimmer is hypothermic or having a medical situation and cannot follow directions.  There may be behavior that coaches will need to intervene with.  Try your best to redirect the swimmer to stay safe and on course and call for backup.  
    9. Sea Life  It’s rare to have negative interactions with sea life. Seeing curious seals, bay dolphins and even the occasional whale is possible and wonderful.  If you see sea creatures don’t panic, stay close to your swimmers and just keep moving.  

    Any questions let me or one of the coaches know.

    And thank you again. What we do is valued, it's special and it's hopefully... a lot of fun.


    Patrick Foley


    This information is subject to change. Registered paddlers will receive an email from the kayak lead prior to race day confirming details.




    499 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, California, 94109, United States