Welcome to our FAQ! Here we answer some common questions about swimming in the bay, safety, gear, and our website. If your question remains unanswered here, please contact us.
What should I bring with me to Aquatic Park?
Come ready with your wetsuit up to your waist, or fully set and warm clothing on top. Bring a towel and change of clothes, goggles, thick silicone or a hood, earplugs, warm cap and something warm to drink after the swim is nice. A coach will watch over your belongings while you swim. Please do not bring valuables to the practice. If this is your first time, bring signed waiver. This waiver is good for the whole season. You may fill out the waiver online.
What is the water temperature?
At the top left of any page on the website, you can check current temperature ranges.
November – March: Approx. between 49-55F (9.0C-13C)
March – October: Approx. between 55-62F (13C-16.5C)
In the last two years in a row, we have seen August-October water reach up to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. This may be becoming a part of the new temperature range.
Are there sharks in the Bay or in the Cove?
There are no life threatening sharks in the cove, although there are small sharks that are bottom feeders, they are not interested in swimmers. People have been swimming in the bay for decades without incident. The biggest concern is hypothermia.
If it rains, do we still swim?
Unless it's a hurricane, you're going to be wet anyway, so yes, we will be swimming in rain or shine!
Is the water dirty?
Runoff after a heavy rain can contaminate the Bay water. Generally, though, the water is clean enough to swim in everyday. The salty taste, lack of clarity due to algae and other marine life, and ocean smell may be off-putting to some. These aspects aren’t dirty, and you will get used to it the way you get used to the chlorine in the pool.
How long will we swim?
Depending in your swimming background, we will have you swim according to your experience. We will have modified workouts for all levels.
I swim in the pool, how will I know when I am ready for open water?
Usually, if you can swim a mile confidently in the pool you are ready for the open water.
What should I eat before I swim?
Eat something warm and easy for you to digest, oatmeal, cream of rice cereal and hot tea are all excellent. Remember before you swim you should be hydrated. Gatorade and Cytomax are excellent sources for electrolyte replenishment, both before and after a swim. Drink these in moderation, you can overdo it and make yourself feel heavy and sick.
Can you watch my stroke?
Yes, if sufficient pilot coverage is available. You may request in advance to have a coaching session during the workout. These private or one to one sessions are $35.00 for the half an hour workout.
What is the difference in pool and open water training?
The tides, currents, slighting, and water temperatures are all factors in developing your skills as an open water swimmer. Wind and rain can also affect the conditions in the Bay. Only experience swimming in the bay can prepare for any eventuality.
Why can't we jump off Alcatraz?
As Alcatraz is partly a bird sanctuary, boats, kayaks, and the people on them are prohibited from getting within 100 meters of Alcatraz, especially from February through September which is breeding season. Water World Swim respects the environment, aiming to keep the sport of open water swimming a live collaboration between the athletes and the oceans.
What are the distances inside the cove, around the breakwater wall, to the flag and back?
Refer to our workout maps. You can also use resources online.
Why are my hands and feet so cold?
In the cold water all the blood travels to your heart to protect it from the cold, leaving the circulation in your hands and feet (farthest from your core center) deprived of the warm blood circulation. This is normal.
What is an ebb and flood?
Different current cycles that bay waters run at different times in 24 hour periods. More detailed information on currents are given in each briefing of our training sessions.
Is there a place to change in Aquatic Park?
Not really, but it is a public beach. You can change there at the bleachers at Aquatic Park or by your car. There is a surf shower at the East end of the beach and there are bathrooms in the nearby local businesses, and at the park by Fort Mason.
How long should I train in the water, and what distance should I aspire to?
Your training in the open water should be measured in time, not distances, building stamina and acclimating to the cooler water temperatures. The distances and speed should be considered in competition only.
Do you organize private and group swims?
Yes! If you or your team/group would like to attempt one of our courses privately or complete and Alcatraz crossing, we can help supply the permits and schedule a date. Private and group swims must be planned several months in advance.
I'd like to do an Alcatraz swim alone. What does it cost?
Private swims are much pricier as we much assure permits from the Coast Guard, coaches, and boat and kayak support. Cost for support alone will be up to $550, so we would have to discuss with you in order to give an accurate quote. We require a 50% non-refundable deposit before we start getting permits, and the second payment at least two weeks before the event.
I'd like to join a current swim with my group/team - is there a discount?
Yes! The discount is as follows:
- 5-10 swimmers: 10% off
- 11-15 swimmers: 15% off
- 16-20 swimmers: 20% off
- 20+ swimmers: 25% off
Open Water Swimming Safety
If I wear earplugs I can’t hear anything, should I still wear them?
You don’t need to hear anything after the initial instructions. If there is danger we will blow a loud horn, and you will definitely hear it. Concentrate on the sound of your breathing and your heart beating, this will allow for a more focused swim and calm the body and mind.
What are the signs of hypothermia?
Cold, shivering, mental confusion, feeling “high”, suddenly feeling warm and disoriented or paranoid. Sometimes there are signals once you are out of the water that indicate you have gone beyond your limits. Dizziness, nausea, weakness, and mental confusion.
What should I do if I feel hypothermic?
If you feel any of the above signs, get out immediately. If you are not close to shore, tell your pilot to watch you carefully. Once you are out, take off your wet clothes, dry off and wrap yourself in layers of clothes or blankets. Warm up SLOWLY before entering a hot shower or sauna. Remember alcohol does not keep you warm, quite the opposite. You should never swim if you have alcohol in your system.
How do I alert a pilot kayaker that I am in trouble?
Raise your hand! If you are panicking, roll onto your back and float. Floating sometimes helps calm anxiety and it's a good thing to do while you wait for help.
Can bring my own kayaker to the event?
You are more than welcome to bring your own kayaker - please let us know in advance and note that the kayak cannot be personalized and must follow our kayak captain's instructions.
Are booties ok for swimming?
No, they usually fill up with water, weigh you down and do not keep your feet warm. You can wear the water socks inside your zoomers and they can hold in heat for short distances.
Why do I need earplugs?
If the middle ear gets cold, it affects your equilibrium, so that when you leave the water after you swim you become dizzy. Earplugs help keep your head warm and protect you from bacteria in the water.
Water World Swim recommends Mack's moldable silicone earplugs.
Keeping body temperature stable to prevent hypothermia is the hardest and most dangerous obstacle open-water swimmers face when swimming in colder waters. By sealing out frigid water from the ear canal, swimmers are better able to keep their body temperature up, help prevent swimmer’s ear infections (otitis externa), surfer’s ear (exostosis), and cold water-induced dementia, a debilitating effect that can occur when very cold water enters the ear canal. Mack’s® Pillow Soft® Earplugs and Mack’s® AquaBlock® Ear Plugs provide a very comfortable, waterproof seal which helps prevent these health hazards.
Is a diving or surfing wetsuit okay for swimming?
No, they are designed for diving and surfing only. Wearing one for swimming can be tiring, as they are more stiff, and can also lead to stress and injury, especially on shoulders.
What type of wetsuit should I buy, and can I wear a short sleeve suit?
You can rent a wetsuit from Sports Basement and the rental price will go towards the purchase should you decide towards the purchase should you decide to invest in one. Get a wetsuit that fits you perfectly. At Sports Basement they have assigned personnel to help you make the best selection for your body type. It’s also good to get some Body Glide to prevent chafing around the neck.
What about goggles?
Many out there in the market, the most recommended are those made out of silicone, and CLEAR. They are flexible and easy to adapt to the shape of your face. Wash them with warm water the day before and mold them to your face, before race day or before swimming in open water. Anti fog drops can assist in visibility.
Can I get a refund for paid registration?
Entry fees are non-refundable, no exceptions. However, you may be eligible for a rollover credit for future events. Please read our refund policy above for details.
How late can I pull out of an event?
You must notify us of your intention no later than 20 days prior to the event date. If within 30 days leading up to the event a medical issue, military deployment, or death in the family prevents your participation, you must notify us in writing and attach documentation to support your claim. We must receive it at least 72 hours before the race start time. Please read our downloadable refund policy above for details.
Can I sell or trade my registration to/with someone else?
No - you may not sell, trade, or allow someone else to take your entry. Substitutions jeopardize our insurance and our ability to secure the permits necessary for future events. Please read our downloadable refund policy above for details.
What is the latest deadline for rollover credits?
No credits will be issued within the last 72 hours prior to event day. Please read our downloadable refund policy above for details.
Are there rollover fees?
Yes, and they differ depending on the event. Please read our downloadable refund policy above for details.
Is my payment information secure on your website?
Absolutely! Your credit card and other payment information is encrypted through DigiCert and Stripe. Your information is not stored on our servers, and we do not have access to it.
Do I have to fill out a waiver for every weekly swim I attend?
Nope! The waiver is good for the year you signed it in, so you only have to fill it out once a year. Each year you must sign a new waiver.
I would love to feature Water World Swim in an article. Who can I contact?
Please get in touch with Lauren Cassidy. She can help you with your query and direct you to anyone you may request in particular!
Are the annual events covered by press?
Yes, many of our events - especially our large ones, such as Alcatraz Swim with the Centurions - are covered by press.
Where can I find images from the event I was in?
We post the images from our events to our Facebook page, blog, and to SmugMug. You can purchase prints and other products with the photos from SmugMug.