Hic Sunt Leones

Luca Pozzi
Stile Libero
Published in
3 min readDec 23, 2020


Sunday (2020–12–13) Lauren and I, to stretch out from the previous day’s 3 hours in 53F, got back to the Bay. Little did we know, an adventure awaited us!

It was a classic overcast San Francisco morning, water was sleek as oil and the tide was weak, so we decided to venture towards Fort Mason, 3/4 of a mile West from our usual beach.

Fort Mason is a cluster of 3 docks on the parallel piers, jutting out like a fork. From our Cove, we swam towards the “Gas House”, a refueling point for boars. As we swim we notice a sealion not far away and we stick together to avoid having to face it alone. On the way back, at the middle pier, two huge makes breach right in front of us, less than 5 yards away!!!!

Open Water Swimming is by its own nature a wild sport, and the marine fauna is always present, after all we’re the intruders…

Of course everyone’s mind goes to sharks, but the chance of encountering a shark is usually minimal. Sharks are very territorial and follow seasonal patterns. In some locations such as the infamous Aptos Beach in Santa Cruz, of the Farallon Island you’re almost assured to encounter them, but the Ocean is vast and the sharks are not hungry for human flesh.

Where I usually swim, the California Coast of the Pacific Ocean, sharks are present, but they usually avoid swimmers, thanks to the abundance of their favorite food: Seals and SeaLions.

These fat marine mammals are a great source of calories, and are a constant presence during our swims.

Harbor seals are usually smaller, curious and harmless. They love to bump swimmers and try to play with them like dogs would. Sea Lions truly look like dogs with fins, but are a bit more trouble. Females and pups are usually playful and follow swimmers and swim around them. The males, however, can be as large as bears and are very aggressive and territorial. They usually guard their turf by barking at the swimmers and approaching them with their chest out and fangs bared, but they rarely chase the routing swimmers once they back down from the challenge.

Very rarely, however, an aggressive or cornered animal did bite several swimmers pretty badly, creating a reign of terror for few months…

With these precedents in mind Lauren and I swam away real quick!

With the two Beasts patrolling our escape route we had to think fast and outwit them. The 53F water wasn’t leaving us much time to wait for them to get tired. The walk of shame on land is always an option, but due to distance and temperature not the most pleasant…

Fortunately Lauren can think quick and out of the box! Under Fort Mason there’s a tunnel cutting across the piers to the other side. An escape route reminiscent of Paris Catacombs (or sewers…).

The Take Home Message? Always respect Nature and Always have at least a B plan and a safe escape route.

Stay tuned and please share.


[Versione Italiana]