The Red Bulletin | 5 destinations that’ll test you (and reward you)

 April 14, 2016

The musty charm of the South End Rowing Club at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park is more Jack London than Sergey Brin. It’s there that you can meet up with a guy like Pedro Ordenes, a Chilean-American who has made the 1.25-mile crossing from the world’s most famous prison hundreds of times.

His club, Water World Swim, organizes group swims for locals and out-of-towners who want to do the same.

Before plunging in, you should be able to swim an uninterrupted mile in a pool. A wetsuit is a must the first time around, as are earplugs and an insulated swim cap. Regulars swear that once you go Speedo, you never go back. And the best time of year to try that is the summer, when Bay water temperatures reach a boiling 58 degrees (and the sharks are mostly bottom feeders).

A glance at the tide tables will help you avoid being swept either down to San Jose or out of the Golden Gate. Most attempts happen before 8 a.m., when boat traffic starts.

The first dip is the toughest, and Ordenes says that a few swims in Aquatic Park should preface any Alcatraz attempt to get your body to record and store away the feeling of cold.

Once your breathing returns to normal, the swim is slow and steady and should include at least one break: in the middle of the Bay, gazing at the cityscape as the sun bathes San Francisco in the early morning light. —A.T.

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