Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

Hello All,

My swimming group at work attempted to swim from Alcatraz this morning.

What a tremendous experience.

And … Well, as you can probably infer from the title, we made it to SF, yet do not get to fully count it. In spite of a monstrous effort by all, in the middle of the bay, the current got up to something like 4 knots, and our boat needed to pick us all up and re-position us in order to make it to the beach. Thus, we did technically swim the entire distance from Alcatraz to SF, but we needed a little help there in the middle.

But more on that later.

Let’s start in the early morning.

Driving over Hyde Street I was nervous as all hell.

Seeing the Rock out there in the distance, knowing that I was an hour away from pounding swell and brutal currents, trying to focus on all the technique we’ve been working on … my body was simply overwhelmed with the whole morning.

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

We’ve been swimming a ton in the pool at work, yet my open water experience is quite limited. My stomach was swarming with butterflies, and I basically spent like 2 hours just laying in bed last night, not able to sleep.

Seeing my friends at the dock was sooooo nice. They’re such a fucking awesome group of people. Comprised of animators, renderers, and technical directors, these dudes are badasses at their desks and in the water! Indeed, my swim crew at Pixar is such a bright spot in my life.

Nevertheless, getting onto the boat and gearing up, I was freaking.

But it was rad kind of freaking.

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

The boat ride felt like it took only a minute.

The day was gorgeous, and we all cracked these beautiful nervous smiles as we headed out to our starting point.

Suddenly, the boat gets to Alcatraz, and we jump in! Splash! Whew! What a rush, jumping in the bay, tasting the salt, getting a solid jolt from the water, we were off!

Okay … So our coach Morgan Filler is an absolute, 100% mega stud. She was on the kayak (along with another dude) and prepped us really well on the ride over. We were supposed to site just east of the aquatic park, and let the current take us there.

As such, I hit the water and charged it.

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

The first ten minutes were awesome.

I felt like I was pulling really well, getting great breaths in, and enjoying the majesty of it all.

And then the current began to pick up. Morgan would kayak over to me and keep signaling that I needed to adjust my trajectory eastward. For the next 30 to 40 minutes I was in a pretty rough space, both mentally and physically. I couldn’t really see where anyone else was – except for Ross – who was a good 30 yards east of me (thus better positioned) and all I could think of was Morgan constantly signaling to me that I needed to adjust my couse toward Coit Tower (which is way east of our target). I got bummed, I swallowed some water, the swell picked up, and I got even more bummed. I began to assume that I was the only swimmer out of position, that I had somehow screwed up initially, and that Morgan was somehow disappointed in me. So I kept struggling east. I basically pointed my nose to the bay bridge, and swam as hard as I possible could into the rising sun.

Swimming favors the calm. The more you thrash, the harder it gets, and by about 45 minutes in, I was thrashing a lot, and going the wrong way. In spite of all the heart I could muster, I just couldn’t re-position myself. I felt like a failure. For some reason, I just couldn’t come to terms with the fact that the water was more powerful than me. I just couldn’t relax my mind, and do the serenity prayer. If there were one thing I would do differently, I would have relaxed at that point, and accepted the power of the bay.

Meanwhile, Di and Aki and Tom are on the land trying to see what the heck is going on.

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

So … There I am … Struggling in the bay, getting pulled out to the Golden Gate, losing my cool, and thrashing in the water. And then, the boat comes to get me. I immediately saw a couple of my fellow swimming buddies there and in a half second I realized that the current was not singling me out for her punishment, that my coach wasn’t angry at me for swimming off the path, that I wasn’t some failure who started too fast only to buron out in the middle. I realized that I was a part of something much greater than I am. I realized that the bay was not going to let me cross her that day, that Morgan was signaling to me just as she was signaling to everyone else. She was our ever so helpful guide in this treacherous environment. I realized that my frustrations were not necessary at all … I was doing the best I could … And we were all getting hosed by the gnar of the tide.

The boat took all of us due east about a mile or so, and then dropped us back in the water.

From there it was a really fun sprint to the beach.

Here I am trailing Ross by like 10 yards, charging in.


From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

We get to the beach and were all smiles.

What a bunch of badasses.

Also, I am pretty sure that we agreed to try it agin in the Fall. Right?

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*

After we all high fived and chatted about our adventure, our fearless leader, like a cowboy riding off into the sunset, gets back into her kayak and pushes away. Morgan, you are amazing. Thank you.

From Pixar Open Water Swimmers Escape From Alcatraz*