Upcoming Alcatraz Swims: September 21, 2019

Come join us for the ultimate Bay Area open water swim! This event is not a race, just a friendly swim in an exciting, safe, and comfortable environment. It is a great opportunity for those training for similar events, including the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, or people who just want an unforgettable, world famous swimming experience! 

  • Approximately 2 mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. This swim is for relatively strong swimmers. You should be able to do this distance in a pool (140 lengths of a 25 yard pool) or during our regular group open water swims in Berkeley without stopping. Feel free to contact us if you're not sure if you are up for it.

  • Only $135 per event. There is a $50 late registration fee within one month of the swim.

  • In addition to the swim itself, registration includes an event t-shirt and a yellow silicone Odyssey swim cap.

  • All Alcatraz swims will take place in the morning, usually meeting in San Francisco between 5 and 8am. The registration page shows an approximate check-in time, but swimmers will receive an email prior to the event with finalized details.

Click the button below for registration. Space is limited, so sign up soon!

Private Alcatraz Swims

Want to have your own private Alcatraz swim? Odyssey Open Water Swimming is available to schedule private solo or group Alcatraz swims. All Alcatraz Swims include a pre-swim briefing by one of our experienced guides, a yellow silicone swim cap, and an Alcatraz Swim sticker. Swims are supported by a Coast Guard Certified Boat Captain and one or more Odyssey guides.

Enter your info below if you're interested in a private Alcatraz Swim and continue reading below for additional information. Questions? Email us at warren@odysseyopenwater.com.

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"Flash" Alcatraz

We often host solo Alcatraz swimmers who want some company! Many of these swims are weekday mornings, sometimes on short notice. If you'd like a chance to participate, please join the list below. We'll send an email out and accept swimmers first-come-first-serve. $125 per crossing.

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Alcatraz FAQs

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  • How long is the Alcatraz swim (distance and length)?

The Alcatraz swim is approximately two miles from Alcatraz Island to the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. Due to the added difficulty of swimming in the open water compared to pool swimming, you should be able to at least 2-2.5 miles in a pool.

The swim can last between 30 minutes and an hour-and-a-half depending on your level of comfort, ability, and the conditions. You will be well supported with Odyssey Open Water Swimming support crew nearby on kayaks or paddleboards.

The Odyssey Alcatraz swim should not be your first open water swim. We recommend joining us on several weekly Berkeley swims to increase your comfort in the open water before signing up for Alcatraz. Berkeley swims are from .5-3 miles long and you can go as long or as short as you feel comfortable.

  • What course will we take for the Alcatraz swim?

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Odyssey hosts several group Alcatraz swims each year. During these swims, we take a boat to just off the southeast side of Alcatraz Island and jump in to start our swim. Swimmers aim south towards San Francisco and get pushed west with the current, ending at the beach in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club.

Private solo and small group Alcatraz swims may have different courses, including from Alcatraz to the Aquatic Park beach, which is the most common route.

  • What weather conditions can I expect?

The weather for each swim is different. We plan Alcatraz swims to start in the early morning hours to minimize wind and waves. The water may be flat, but it is not unusual to experience 1-3 foot waves during a portion of the swim. Waves come from the west and will hit swimmers from their right side.

  • How is the current?

Group Alcatraz Swims are planned with an ebb (outgoing) current. This adds a moderate challenge to the swim, as you must make it across the current as you head for shore. However, swimmers will be guided to aim almost two miles east of the finish point, which often results in the current assisting them and pushing them to the finish, making for a crossing that is quicker than most swimmers expect.

  • What safety precautions do you provide?

Odyssey coordinates the timing of the swim with local authorities to ensure a safe journey. We also provide ample kayak support, swim coaches, and emergency help on standby just in case their assistance is needed.

If you need to be pulled out of the water, our team will quickly assist you in doing so. “If you don’t complete the crossing, know that there are many more opportunities to try again,” says experienced Odyssey Open Water Swimming swimmer Angela Stockard.

  • Do I need to wear a wetsuit?

Wetsuits are not required, but around 90% of swimmers choose to wear them for Alcatraz swims, especially during the winter months when the weather drops. Water temperatures for Alcatraz swims are usually in the mid-50’s to mid-60’s. For comparison, pools used for competitive swimming are between 77 and 82 degrees (Fahrenheit).

During our Berkeley swims, which begin at the Berkeley Marina, water temperatures can be as much as 10 degrees warmer than for the Alcatraz swims.

If you choose to wear a wetsuit but aren't ready to buy one, you can rent one at Sports Basement for $25 a week or $50 a month. Sports Basement rents Blue Seventy and 2XU suits, which are both specifically for open water swimming, but if you have a surfing-style wetsuit, that works just fine, too.

  • What should I bring?

We recommend that you bring the following to your Alcatraz swim with Odyssey:

  • Swimsuit/Wetsuit

  • Goggles

  • Towel

  • Warm clothes, food, and water for afterwards

  • Ear plugs (optional)

Note: You will receive an Odyssey Open Water Swimming swim cap during our meeting before the swim begins.

  • What should I expect on the day of the swim?

Alcatraz swims will take place in the morning between 5 and 8am depending on weather conditions. The preliminary check-in time is listed on the event registration page (click on your swim here). Before the event takes place, you will receive an email with the finalized details and check-in time.

  • Is there a minimum age?

If you are comfortable in the water, you're welcome to join. We have had swimmers ranging from nine to eighty five. We do recommend first joining us on a weekly Berkeley swim before tackling one of our larger events, including our Alcatraz swim.

Parents, if you're unsure if your child should participate, email us. Children under 18 need to make sure their parents/guardians sign the waiver, which can be downloaded here. Please note that the waiver you complete in the online registration is separate.

  • Can I bring friends or family aboard the boat?

Depending on the size of the Alcatraz swim, you may be able to bring a family member or friend aboard the boat with you. Contact us a week before the swim to inquire about space on the boat you will be traveling on to Alcatraz Island.

Email Warren@odysseyopenwater.com.

  • Will I be able to store my things on the boat?

Yes. You can bring items aboard the boat, but you are responsible for their safety.

Alcatraz Swimming Tips


BEFORE the swim:

  • arrive well-rested, well-hydrated, and well-fed

  • do light stretches and warm up your shoulders

  • stay warm

  • be familiar with the swim route and landmarks for sighting

  • be mentally prepared

DURING the swim:

  • jump from the boat quickly and begin swimming immediately when instructed to begin

  • follow the directions carefully

  • swim quickly across the current at the beginning of the swim

  • only make the right turn once you have crossed most of the current (many swimmers will never really turn, as they will be pushed west in the current)

  • when swimming parallel to shore, stay at least 200 yards from the shore

  • take long, smooth strokes

  • use an efficient pull

  • sight frequently

  • breathe frequently

  • minimize stopping

  • be confident and determined

  • NOTE: swimmers who are too far off the course will need to be picked up by a boat and repositioned for safety.

Also Read: 11 Tips for First-Time Alcatraz Swimmers

Have Questions?