Angel Island, the Lord of the Flies, and Trump…

Luca Pozzi
Stile Libero
Published in
5 min readOct 13, 2020

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It’s 4:45am October 10th 2020, the alarm goes off.. I tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. I put the kettle on the fire and zap two slices of pizza in the microwave. It’s not a morning like others, today we swim!

The goal is the round trip of the Infamous Angel Island: jump from Aquatic Park, swim North, go by Alcatraz and get to Angel Island, the around and back: 10 miles in San Francisco Bay (57F-60F in this season) crossing two trafficked shipping channels (twice), the lanes of the maritime highway between China and Oakland, crowded with huge container ships and boats, boat commercial and recreational. All of this while dancing with the tides, pulling and pushing perpendicular to the course and that can easily sway the swimmer.

Besides being a well known and tough challenge, and a must have in the bucket list of any Ultra-marathon swimmer, I also have another motivation: Revenge!

In 2017 I attempted this swim, but bad tides, wind, and very poor coordination doomed the attempt.

To pilot this challenge are Sylvia and Bryan of Pacific Open Water Co.: the best pilots in the Bay or on Lake Tahoe!

The observer is Mike Tschantz-Hahn, with his humor and his unshakeable calm.

By my side is Lauren Lesyna, Friend and swimming partner. She’s also looking for a challenge to replace the English Channel we had both planned for 2020 but that COVID-19 took away from us (for the moment).

But back to the story!

Time to fill up my bottles and to swallow the pizza and Lauren picks me up. We get to Sausalito where the boats of Pacific Open Water Co. are moored.

They take us across the Bay to the usual beach at Aquatic Park. We cover up with zinc and Vaseline (anti chafe), we pull down our goggles and we jump in the water! We swim to the Dolphin Club beach, which was our second home before COVID-19, and we get out of the water. Sylvia starts the countdown and, as she flashes a green light, we start swimming!

We get out of the cove and we swim in the sunrise.

Within the first 30' we’re at Alcatraz and our first feed is just under the cliffs of the prison.

Here comes the first comic relief of this story. As we pass by the island a cloud of flies swarms the boat to follow it for the rest of the swim, despite the efforts of Bryan to sprint away with the boat, or Mike’s to swat them with a towel. This scene entertained us for the rest of the swim, as a parallel of the other fly made famous by the vice-presidential debate few days before.

We keep making progress towards Angel Island and in approximately one hour we’re at the coast. We keep swimming in the calm water and we enjoy the great view and the huge ships coming and going.

We go around the island, swimming in from of Tiburon (which, despite the name, is not shark infested). From there my Friends John and Jason are cheering for us with binoculars and the Tricolore!

The waters between Angel Island and Tiburon are the infamous Raccoon Strait, where many attempts end up stuck in the relentless current.

Luckily out pilots know their shit and Lauren and I pass by without much of a struggle, escorted by few curious seals (while on the boat the battle with the flies rages on).

We finally turn the corner and we see Alcatraz straight ahead!

…and here shit hits the fan…

As soon as we turned the corner our pace dropped. Alcatraz looked so close, but stroke after stroke it keep eluding us…

In the meanwhile two container ships go by (fortunately far from us) and the Bay fills up with weekend sailors, and with the ultimate Horror: Trump boats! Fortunately Bryan keeps the hordes at bay and inch after inch we get to Alcatraz.

Here starts the last push: we know that from Alcatraz we’re really close and with renewed energies we enter Aquatic Park.

We climb on the beach, miss an “high five” that could have disqualified us (sometime that lack of coordination pays off) and we lift up our arms: Victory!

Back to the boat we try to guess how long it took us and we’re pleasantly surprised it took us an hour less than we thought!

All thanks to the perfect route and the perfect Team!

Looking back I’m really happy with the outcome and beyond proud of how Lauren and I kept the pace and finished in good time.

2020 has been a meager year, and be able to complete a marathon swim despite the circumstances is a great satisfaction.

This swim was a great baseline for the next (hard) season of training. We went into it with little to no training due to the pandemic and most of all the fires that ravaged California. The results we obtained with the bare minimum of fitness are a great data point to gauge what we’re capable of from the physical and mental point of view. A lot of the training and the experience of the past 4 years is still there and it’s not easy to wash away. Of course today our arms are pretty sore, but we could do it again right now!

Stay tuned and please share!

Ciao.

[Versione Italiana]

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