WWS Summer Tri Clinics

Spend the weekend getting prepared for your summer Alcatraz triathlon with      Water World Swim. There are several Alcatraz triathlon events throughout the season and we will tailor the training to suit your needs. The swim clinics are led by Coach Pedro H. Ordenes, ASCA/WSCA, who has completed hundreds of Alcatraz crossings and several record-breaking distance swims as well as several Ironman Triathlons. Our coaches are experienced bay swimmers and triathletes who are eager to help  you achieve your goal of swimming in open water. Master the swim with the premier San Francisco Bay Swim experts.

The swim-focused program consists of 3 swims, including an Alcatraz Clinic, a bike ride and a run on the course.

JULY 14 – 17th: REGISTER


Prepare yourself to have a great race and confident swim!

Success stories


Water World Swim Weekend Recap

It’s been another amazing weekend of training, and our final Tri Clinic weekend before The Escape. We start with a splash on Thursday with a Swim With Pedro Weekly Workout. This is a great introduction to swimming in the bay. If it is your first time, let us know and our coaches will assist you.

Friday was our Alcatraz Clinic. The swimmers tested the waters near the Island and the finish and gained knowledge and tips to master this swim. Saturday was one of the toughest swims this year, mentally and physically: an Alcatraz crossing against the current. We are extremely proud of our swimmers that pushed through it and even those that attempted. Brave Alcatraz swimmers!

This might be Les

The swim was followed by a nice ride on The Escape course. We are getting to know these hills pretty well, and good practice for swim to bike transition.

As if that wasn’t enough, more swimming on Sunday for a tough group. It’s good to test out the wetsuit you’re going to be using on race day beforehand and make sure it isn’t too tight and that you can breathe. How is the breathing in cold 55°F water? How long can you swim without getting too cold? Practice sighting on landmarks and navigating in currents & getting used to swimming in a wetsuit. Then hit the trails for another nice brick workout run to the sand ladder.

Coach Jake giving some swim to run transition tips.

One more important training session to go next Thursday before The Escape. Thank you for training with us! We really enjoyed it and know you are going to do well! We hope you all have an excellent time at The Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. We will see you in the bay at the start. Come visit us at our booth at the Fitness Festival. There are many more swims and triathlons coming up this year, stay tuned!

Water World Swim has been selected once again by the Escape from Alcatraz organization to run the swim portion of the Escape. Our records and experience have been demonstrated throughout our years of swimming, coaching and managing safety events in the Bay.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

A Sunday Swim at Aquatic Park

Frequently asked questions by swimmers new to the Bay


What should I bring with me to the Aquatic Park?
Come ready with your wetsuit up to your waist, or fully set and warm clothing on top. Bring a towel and change of clothes, goggles, thick silicone or a hood, earplugs, warm cap and something warm to drink after the swim is nice. A coach will watch over your belongings while you swim. Please do not bring valuables to the practice. If this is your first time, bring signed waiver. This waiver is good for the whole season. You may download the waiver from our website.

What is the water temperature?
November – March: Approx. between 49 – 55 F (9.0 C –13 C.)
March – October: Approx. between 55 -62 F (13 C. -16.5 C.)
Current temps

Are there sharks in the Bay or in the Cove?
There are no life threatening sharks in the cove, although there are small sharks that are bottom feeders, they are not interested in swimmers. People have been swimming in the bay for decades without incident. The biggest concern is hypothermia.

What are the signs of hypothermia?
Cold, shivering, mental confusion, feeling “high”, suddenly feeling warm and disoriented or paranoid. Sometimes there are signals once you are out of the water that indicate you have gone beyond your limits. Dizziness, nausea, weakness, and mental confusion.

What should I do if I feel hypothermic?
If you feel any of the above signs, get out immediately. If you are not close to shore, tell your pilot to watch you carefully. Once you are out, take off your wet clothes, dry off and wrap yourself in layers of clothes or blankets. Warm up SLOWLY before entering a hot shower or sauna. Remember alcohol does not keep you warm, quite the opposite. You should never swim if you have alcohol in your system.

Is the water dirty?
Runoff after a heavy rain can contaminate the Bay water. Generally, though, the water is clean enough to swim in everyday. The salty taste, lack of clarity due to algae and other marine life, and ocean smell may be off-putting to some. These aspects aren’t dirty, and you will get used to it the way you get used to the chlorine in the pool.

How long will we swim?
Depending in your swimming background, we will have you swim according to your experience. We will have modified workouts for all levels.

I swim in the pool, how will I know when I am ready for open water?
Usually, if you can swim a mile confidently in the pool you are ready for the open water.

What should I eat before I swim?
Eat something warm and easy for you to digest, oatmeal, cream of rice cereal and hot tea are all excellent. Remember before you swim you should be hydrated. Gatorade and Cytomax are excellent sources for electrolyte replenishment, both before and after a swim. Drink these in moderation, you can overdo it and make yourself feel heavy and sick.

Can you watch my stroke?
Yes, if sufficient pilot coverage is available. You may request in advance to have a coaching session during the workout. These private or one to one sessions are $35.00 for the half an hour workout.

What is the difference in pool and open water training?
The tides, currents, slighting, and water temperatures are all factors in developing your skills as an open water swimmer. Wind and rain can also affect the conditions in the Bay. Only experience swimming in the bay can prepare for any eventuality.

What are the distances inside the cove, around the breakwater wall, to the flag and back?
Refer to our workout maps. You can also use resources online.

Are booties ok for swimming?
No, they usually fill up with water, weigh you down and do not keep your feet warm. You can wear the water socks inside your zoomers and they can hold in heat for short distances.

Why are my hands and feet so cold?
In the cold water all the blood travels to your heart to protect it from the cold, leaving the circulation in your hands and feet (farthest from your core center) deprived of the warm blood circulation. This is normal.

What is an ebb and flood?
Different current cycles that bay waters run at different times in 24 hour periods. More detailed information on currents are given in each briefing of our training sessions.

Is there a place to change in Aquatic Park?
Not really, but it is a public beach. You can change there at the bleachers at Aquatic Park or by your car. There is a surf shower at the East end of the beach and there are bathrooms in the nearby local businesses, and at the park by Fort Mason.

Why do I need earplugs?
Yes, always. If the inner ear gets cold it affects your equilibrium, so that when you leave the water after you swim you become dizzy. Earplugs help keep your head warm and protect you from bacteria in the water.

If I wear earplugs I can’t hear anything, should I still wear them?
You don’t need to hear anything after the initial instructions. If there is danger we will blow a loud horn, and you will definitely hear it. Concentrate on the sound of your breathing and your heart beating, this will allow for a more focused swim and calm the body and mind.

How long should I train in the water, and what distance should I aspire to ?
Your training in the open water should be measured in time, not distances, building stamina and acclimating to the cooler water temperatures. The distances and speed should be considered in competition only.

Is a diving or surfing wetsuit okay for swimming?
No, they are designed for diving and surfing only.

What type of wetsuit should I buy, and can I wear a short sleeve suit?
You can rent a wetsuit from Sports Basement and the rental price will go towards the purchase should you decide to invest in one. Get a wetsuit that fits you perfectly. At Sports Basement they have assigned personnel to help you make the best selection for your body type. It’s also good to get some Body Glide to prevent chafing around the neck.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask our coaches at the workout session. Register for the next Swim With Pedro Weekly Workout session. See you in the bay!

Copyright 2011 by Water World Swim, LLC. all rights reserved. This material may not be copied for distribution, subject to inclusion of this copyright notice and http://www.waterworldswim.com

Open Water Swimming Safety

A very important rule you should always observe is never swim alone or don’t swim alone without telling anyone. It doesn’t matter how experienced of a swimmer you are, when training in any large outdoor body of water you should always pick a companion to swim with or have a friend on shore who can see you or that you check in with. In the Water World Swim group training sessions and events, you will always have coaches and pilots who are watching as you swim. They are in radio contact with someone on shore and/or on the boat. During permitted events, the Coast Guard and SFPD are also on patrol. Make sure you are visible to the pilots in the kayak and other boats in the bay. This is why we wear the brightly colored swim caps. Always obey the pilots instructions or commands. They will guide you to safety.

Coach George Piloting an Alcatraz Crossing

Try to be on time and don’t jump in without telling anyone. On large group swims we will have a sign-in sheet. Check in with the coach and sign-in sheet and sign-off when you get out. All swimmers will have signed waivers which includes contact and emergency contact information. The coach will give instructions for the day’s swim, go over the conditions, and answer any questions you may have.

During large group swims, we will break up into pace groups of fast, medium and slow swimmers. Do not be embarrassed to be in the slow or beginner group. We want everyone to have a good safe workout in the best conditions, that means swimming to the appropriate level of challenge. If you are an experienced swimmer or triathlete who is tired from hard training the day before, you may also choose to swim in the slower group on a particular day. First time bay swimmers will be covered by a pilot and swim as a group. Beginner groups will be no larger than six swimmers. Often we will have a leader in each group. Don’t be surprised if you get picked to be the group leader during a session, especially if you have been swimming with Water World Swim on a regular basis. You may want to pick another person your speed to swim with, a swimming partner, or bring your friends or sweetheart. If any swimmer becomes uncomfortable, needs a break, or wishes to return to shore, raise your hand and shout to the nearest pilot. Most often another swimmer will return to shore with you if you need it.

Tony Piloting a Thursday Weekly Workout

When waiting for help from an approaching pilot kayak, listen to the pilot for instructions. If you become panicked or tired, relax, float on your back and BREATHE, as this cures 99 % of all swimmers anxieties.

Though the coaches and pilots may check in with you periodically, you are ultimately responsible for your safety and communicating what you need. If you do not feel like swimming, return to shore immediately. Make sure you let one of your fellow swimmers and pilots know you are exiting. When outside still feeling cold and shivering out of control tell anyone around you to lend you more jackets or cover you with clothes.

HYPOTHERMIA can creep up on even an experienced swimmer very rapidly. Because our training sessions are less than an hour and shorter in the winter, it is very rare for our swimmers to experience extreme hypothermia. Yet, it is important to recognize the symptoms:

  • Sleepy
  • Tired
  • Too comfortable while swimming
  • Warm sensation
  • Swallowing too much water
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unable to speak
  • Shivering
  • Very sluggish stroke
  • If you feel any of these symptoms, the WORST thing to do is PANIC. Heart rushes blood from the core of your body to the extremities which can lower your temperature even more. You may lose control of your breathing and get cramped and not be able to swim. Cramping from exhaustion paired with cold can create a dangerous situation. REMAIN CALM and Raise your arm and wait while floating. Once you get out, what you want to do is get into dry clothes and indoors immediately. Drink some hot fluids also. If it is very severe, you will get first aid and emergency assistance. After swimming in the bay on a regular basis your body will become acclimated to the temperature and you may find yourself swimming for longer periods of time without any problems.

    By following a few important safety precautions, you will have a GREAT TIME swimming in the bay! Join us on our next Swim With Pedro Weekly Workout

    Kayaks from Water World Swim Touch Alcatraz-N-Go Event

    Protecting Athletes: Open Water Safety Conference March 18-20

    Cold Water Swimming

    Interested in trying a Winter swim in the San Francisco Bay? Join us for a Water World Swim weekly workout session on Sunday mornings at Aquatic Park (meet at the bleachers at 10am). In the early season we do shorter sessions inside the cove, focusing on acclimatization, sighting, currents, swimming in pace groups and just having fun.

    Winter Swimmers

    Winter Swimmers

    Here are a few tips and answers to frequently asked questions:


    Temperatures of the Bay: Currently between 51 deg F. ( 10 deg C.) to 53 deg.F. (12 deg C ). The water temperature in the San Francisco Bay go up between March and September up to 62 deg. F. Local Data: Click on water level for tide chart.


    Always start getting in the water slowly, to let your hands, feet and torso acclimate. Newcomers to the Bay or new to swimming will receive instructions from our experienced coaches. Feel free to ask them questions during the session. Pay attention to the areas where you are planning to swim. Look around to get familiar with the temperatures and landmarks. After a couple of minutes you may feel like you are submerged in the water – continue moving to avoid stiffness. After your swim write in a log book how you felt, your reaction, and your later reactions. Keep track of your time in the water.

    Always try to relax after the normal pattern of breathing is picked up.

    Always Think POSITIVE in the water.

    The distance of the swim depends upon currents. You may use this tool to find the basic distance:
    Click on the manual function and start recording. As you click around on the map it will show the mileage. From the first buoy to the flag is about 260 meters. One cove loop (without going to the extreme) is about 3/4 of a mile.


    A NEOPRENE or insulated CAP– A must for most of first time Bay Swimmers. Your head is a computer. Keep it alert and working all the time.

    Orange or bright colored SWIM CAP (s )
    – You must be seen easily by other swimmers, rowers or the pilots, or your relatives that came to see you from the beach.

    MACK’S silicone EARPLUGS
    – Your middle ear are filaments floating in a nice warm environment. In cold water they will react just like the hair in your leg when you get cold, then voila , then you will go way off balance, causing you to get dizzy, and sick.

    GOGGLES– Many out there in the market, the most recommended are those made out of silicone, and CLEAR. They are flexible and easy to adapt to the shape of your face. Wash them with warm water the day before and mold them to your face, before race day or before swimming in open water. Anti fog drops can assist in visibility.

    ZOOMERS – Swim fins can help you with your training and especially with your drills.

    WET SUIT– Many also out there in the market. BEST recommendation to get them in a place where they know about swimming in cold water and how the suit should fit. Not to tight or not too loose. IF you are seriously considering to keep swimming triathlons or swimming for fun, get a good wet suit for yourself. Do not experiment with diving, surfing, karate, or abalone diver suit from 1954, as they will do more damage to your skin as to your stroke and will ruin your experience. Many swimmers elect to use a sleeveless suit, aka Farmer Johns. If you are used to swimming in cold water feel free to wear your swim suit or speedos.


    TOWELS – very important! But if you forget it I’m sure someone won’t mind sharing.
    BODY GLIDE – if you wear a wetsuit, it is important to put a lubricant around the neck and arms where you might chafe.
    A WARM HAT – your hair might get wet (!), and so it’s good to bring a beanie or something.
    GARBAGE BAGS – for wetsuits, or wet clothes
    WARM AND DRY CLOTHING – also very important! There will be someone watching our stuff as we swim so you don’t get stuck commuting in your wetsuit.
    HOT BEVERAGE – soup or tea for your coach or to share with your fellow swimmers.

    Coach Joseph’s tips for first timers’ swimming in the San Francisco Bay

    Getting up at the crack of dawn, dragging your self down to Aquatic Park to get in the boat and jumping into 50 degree water to swim a mile and a half… All of your friends think you’re insane, and a little bit of yourself agrees.  That’s where the adventure begins, and what an exciting adventure it is that you are about to embark upon.  Swimming from Alcatraz is a wonderful accomplishment that will definitely give you bragging rights.  There are many ways one could prepare for this feat.  I’m sure you know no prisoner ever escaped from Alcatraz Prison (that we know of…)


    By training with WWS, you will be coached with the experience of over 900 + crossings.  That is a lot of expertise.  So yes, it can be done.   I like to look at it as just another mile and a quarter with a lot of fun.  Knowing how to swim is half the battle, and then there is desire, accompanied with knowledge.  Before my first crossing, whenever I would drive by the bay, which is often, I would envision myself jumping out of the boat close to the Rock and swimming my way across to shore.  It took some practice; once I was able to do it, I knew that I was going to be able to complete the amazing swim.  During that time I was swimming with Coach Pedro and his staff every weekend, which helped me understand the tides and currents. Swimming often in the Bay helped my body adapt to the cool water temperature.

    Day of the Jump:

    Alcatraz to Aquatic Park is a 1.25+ miles crossing.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not.  It is just 1.25 miles with a lot of physical and mental challenges.  You’ll want to stay bundled up, right up to the point before you jump. Once you have jumped into the water out by the rock, you are now dealing with cold water, 4 different currents each one pulling in a specific direction. Stop, relax and catch your breath. When you’re ready, begin your journey.

    First, you may encounter what we call a “Potato Patch”.  It’s a convergence of two opposing currents coming together, which creates an agitation type like motion.  You will feel a slight downward pulling sensation; relax, and just keep swimming forward toward the Jeremiah O’Brian or Fontana Towers. The swim director will have recommended which one of these destinations to swim towards before you jump.  The tides are forever changing, so it is best to pay attention to him during the Pre-Jump briefing.  The second current which heads out toward the NorthTower of the Golden GateBridge is usually not a strong current, and one can normally can swim right through it, this would be the one place that you can stop, take in the beauty of the Bay for a moment, then continue swimming. Once you have had your short rest it is important to not stop again.  You can slow down, but remember to always keep moving forward.  The third current which is one that is usually the strongest can pull you off course and often does, if you see yourself being pulled past the opening of Aquatic Park, don’t panic, there will be a lot of boat/kayaker support out there in the water. If a rescue boats tells you to get into the boat, get in the boat; it is for your own safety. The safety crew will reposition you to an area that will put you back on course.  You will not be disqualified. Your safety is more important to us than anything else.  Remember to always swim East of the opening, as you get closer to the wall most times you will find that the 4th current will have pushed you right into the opening. Remember this should be a wonderful fun experience; one that you will remember for the rest of your life.

    Items recommended for swimming in the Bay:

    1.       A full swimming wetsuit fitted to your body.

    2.       A thermal cap (Blue Seventy) under a cap that we will provide for you.

    3.       Earplugs or wax – We recommend Mac’s Ear plug wax.

    4.       Goggles – I recommend Aqua Sphere “Vista”. These lenses are larger that than pool goggles and will give you a wider range of vision and covers more of your forehead, which helps you from getting freeze brain.

    5.       Bring a towel, warm sweats to change into and a thermos of a warm liquid to warm yourself up with after the swim.

    6.       A camera to take beautiful photos of your journey and your new friends at WWS.

    7.       Forget about trying to find Shark repellent. (Humor). There have been swimmers in the Bay for a long time. Records going back to the 1880’s show that there has never been a shark attack on a swimmer. The sediment/silt content in the Bay is too heavy for their gills. No need to fear the Sharks!