Farallon Islands Swimming Federation
This 30-mile course is renowned to be one of the two most difficult, coldest, most perilous marathon swims in the world. Water temperatures can range from 50°F (10°C) to 55.4°F (13°C), but temperatures have been recorded lower on several occasions. The water conditions are usually extremely rough with cresting ocean swells up to 20 feet. Currents and tides often exceed the speed of the fastest swimmers. It is a swim not lightly attempted.
Course & Rules
A sanctioned swim covers the distance between the Northeast buoy at the Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge, either direction is acceptable. Land is never to be touched at the Islands, since they are a National Wildlife Refuge.
English Channel rules apply with one exception - neoprene caps are allowed. The reason for this is the first swimmer to accomplish a never before accomplished feat sets the rules - both swimmers who completed the swim in 1967 wore neoprene caps.
1. Swimmers shall only be allowed to wear goggles, and swim suits without any kind of flotation. Wetsuits strictly forbidden.
2. Swimmers shall keep their same order throughout and swim an hour each, with a total of five minutes allowed for transition.
- only for relay swims
History of Swims
There have been multiple attempts to swim from the Farallon Islands, but to date only two have accomplished this incredible feat.
1. Lt Colonel Stewart Evans The first successful swim was by Lt Colonel Stuart Evans in August of 1967. He landed by Bolinas after swimming 13:44:52 seconds, covering 18 nautical miles. He wore a neoprene cap from looking at his picture and greased himself up fairly well. He also landed on shore and walked on the beach under his own power in accordance with English Channel rules. Evans is now deceased.
2. Ted Erikson The second attempt completed was by Ted Erikson. On his first attempt in 1966 he went completely hypothermic and was reported "dead". He was revived, started life anew and failed again on his second attempt. He said he waited a year this time, brought the man upstairs along, and success.
Erikson completed his swim on 17 September 1967 in 14:38 by swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge, covering 26.4 nautical miles. This is now the official start and finish line according to the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation.
Erikson is very much alive living in Chicago and his website is here. He is a little hard of hearing so emails are much preferred and he is most open and cordial in sharing so much wonderful information. Ted's latest interview is here.
3. Dolphin Club The members of the Dolphin Club and the South End Rowing Club challenged each other to a race from the Farallones to the Club house each living side by side at Aquatic Park. They did the race in Sept or Oct of 1969. The records are being pieced together as we speak and this may be updated from time to time.
The Dolphin Club relay swam to the shores of Aquatic Park in 14 hours and defeated the South End Rowing Club, who got swept south then made it under the Golden Gate Bridge in 16 hours, but was forced to quit after encountering the beginning of the ebb.
Also a 50m sprinter, triathlete, motorcycle racer and now world famous winery owner Bill Harlan, who swam for the Dolphin Club. Bill is 70 and has built one of the most famous wineries in the world Harlan Estates, scoring routine 100 ratings from Robert Parker.
All the people I spoke with confirmed proper relay rules, no sharks, but everyone was scared - they were all honest. Water temperature ranged from 55 to 62 degrees F depending on who you talk to and they started the race at 11pm.”
4. Night Train Swimmers Completed swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands on 20 May 2011, covering 26.4 nautical miles. Time finished: 14:45:08. The team members were Phil Cutti, Darin Connolly, Dave Holscher, Vito Bialla, John Mathews and Kim Chambers.
5. Night Train Swimmers Completed swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands on 4 June 2011, covering 26.4 nautical miles. Time finished: 16:29:08. The team members were Kim Chambers, Laura Vartain Horn, Cathy Delneo, Melissa King, Patti Bauernfeind and Lynn Kubasek.
SEQUEL, a Grand Banks East Bay 43 that belongs to Vito & Linda Bialla, is available for escorting solo and relay swimmers.
The Farallon Islands Swimming Federation course falls entirely within the Red Triangle, an area off the coast of northern California, extending from Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, out slightly beyond the Farallon Islands, and down to the Big Sur region, south of Monterey. This area has a very large population of marine mammals, such as elephant seals, harbor seals, sea otters, and sea lions, which are favored meals of Great White Sharks. Around 38% of recorded Great White Shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle — 11% of the worldwide total.
For more information, the Farallon Islands Swimming Federation provides the following links:
- Farallones Marine Sanctuary
- Tagging of Pacific Predators
- Shark Research Committee
- Stanford University
Photos & Videos
Additional photos and videos are provided by The Farallons Islands Swimming Federation.
Night Train Swimmers at the Farallon Islands
Craig Lenning from the Farallon Islands
News & Real-time GPS Tracking
- Farallon Islands Swimming Federation
- Interview with Ted Erikson and Vito Bialla
- Open Water Swimming website
- The Shark Diver Controversy In Ocean Swimming
- To Bubble Or Not To Bubble - That Is The Question
- Fearsome, Ferocious, Fickle Farallones Awaits The Irish
- Fearsome, Ferocious, Fickle Farallons Awaits South Africa
- Establishing A Governing Body In Open Water Swimming
- Try Try Try Again. Go Joe Go
- Not Since 1967 Has This Swim Been Done
- Joe Locke Swimming, Come Hell Or High Water
- Joe Is Not A Locke, But He Is On His Way
- Mighty Joe Takes Off From Devil's Teeth In The Farallons
- Expect The Unexpected Déjà Vu
- The Farallon Islands To The Golden Gate Bridge
- Time Will Tell How Changes Impact Open Water Rules
- Top 25 Organizations And Groups In Openwaterpedia
- Craig Lenning Has The Right Stuff After 47 Years
- Myra Elizabeth Thompson, Pioneering The Farallon Islands
- Craig Lenning Has The Right Stuff After 47 Years
- Gotta Good Feeling About The Farallons
- Big Day Out On The Ocean (Atlantic Division)
- Big Day Out On The Ocean (Pacific Division)
- 4.4 nm To Go For Craig Lenning
- So Far, So Good For Craig Lenning
- Craig Lenning's 15 Hours 46 Minutes Ends 47-Year Hiatus
- When Technology Meets Channel Swimming
- Evans, Erikson And Lenning - Three With The Right Stuff
- Bits And Pieces From Farallon Islands History
- The Evolutionary Digitalization Of Open Water Swimming
- Were Records Made To Be Broken In Open Water?