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23d Annual Alcatraz Invitational

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Thank you for trying to register for the Alcatraz Invitational. Unfortunately this event is at capacity. Please use our wait-list function in case more spots become available. Same day registration maybe available this year. Please preregister on our wait-list.

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South End Rowing Club

500 Jefferson St

San Francisco, CA 94109

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Sales Have Ended

Registrations are closed
Thank you for trying to register for the Alcatraz Invitational. Unfortunately this event is at capacity. Please use our wait-list function in case more spots become available. Same day registration maybe available this year. Please preregister on our wait-list.
Event description


1.27 mile open water swim from a point abeam Alcatraz Island back to the South End Rowing Clubhouse at the foot of the Hyde St. Pier in San Francisco.

Both "Suits" and "Skins" Divisions. Each participant receives a distinctive Finisher Medal, swim cap, t-shirt, and brunch ticket. Awards to over-all winners in each division.

Spectator passes are available for $40, spectators may ride on a separate boat from swimmers. Please know that if your swimmer can swim a mile in 25 minutes or less, then you will probably miss your swimmer finishing the swim if you are on the spectator boat.

Swimmers 14 and under need to have the permission of the Race Director to swim. Please email the race director for instructions -

Times are subject to change.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

06:00 am Registration opens

7:30 am Mandatory Race Briefing

8:00 am Walk short distance to boat

8:30 am Boat leaves dock

9:00 am Swim begins abeam Alcatraz

9:45 am Brunch served

10:15 am Swim ends

10:15 am Awards Ceremony

We will send out 2 swim updates prior to the swim to registered participants. Please also see our event webpage for additional details and for the FAQ for the event.


1. When is the Alcatraz Invitational? The Alcatraz Invitational will be held on Saturday, September 29, 2018 (PENDING PERMITS).

2. What is the water temperature? The San Francisco Bay in September is typically around 60 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 17 degrees Celsius).

3. What time is the swim jump this year? Swimmers will jump from the boat at a time TBD at Alcatraz Island, unless conditions that morning dictate a slightly different time. Final jump time will be determined by the test swim before the event.

4. How can I keep warm in colder water? To help retain body heat and prevent swimmer's ear infections, South End swimmers usually wear a thermal cap (or two) and Mack's earplugs.

5. What is your refund policy? We refund the $180 swim fee up to 70 days prior to the event. For refunds, e-mail by JULY 21, 2018 and we will credit your account for the full amount of the swim. Credit cards charges more than 180 days prior to the swim cannot be refunded electronically and require a physical check to be mailed. That can take 30 days to complete. We will not refund any fees due to timing issues, repositioning or missed swims. This is a fundraiser for the South End Rowing Club run entirely by club members. Every effort is made to ensure that you have a good experience, but it is not a race. It is an event.

6. What is your registration transfer policy? Tranfsers are OK until 70 days before the swim (7/21/18)

7. Can I sell my registration on craigslist? NO. Yes, that has been asked. You have to show an ID at check-in. It needs to match the name on the registration.

8. Do you allow race-day registration? Yes there are some “Race Day Registrations” available every year on a first come first served basis. We cannot guarantee that there will be space, but we have rarely had to turn anyone away who wanted to swim.

9. How do I get a discount? The South End does not offer discounts for the Alcatraz Invitational. This is our annual fundraiser and helps us maintain and improve our over 100-year-old clubhouse.

10. Can I purchase a spectator pass to ride on the boat on the day of the event? No. Spectator passes must be purchased in advance via

11. How do I get a brunch ticket? When you check in for the swim you will receive your event T-shirt, timing chip, swim cap, and a wrist bracelet for each food ticket purchased.

12. Can I buy a brunch ticket at the event? Yes, as soon as the swimmers leave for the boat we will begin selling food tickets for $20. Kids under 7 eat free. Brunch is included in the price for swimmers and spectators.

13. How can I change my swim division? Please notify registration when you check in for the event on the day of the swim.

14. Is there a cut-off time for the swim? Generally 90 minutes is the maximum, but we take each swimmer’s situation into consideration and encourage every swimmer to finish. Ultimately we take direction from the US Coast Guard and San Francisco Police Department as to when to end the swim – especially “in” the shipping channel. Slower swimmers maybe repositioned so they can safely finish the swim.

15. Are swim fins allowed in the swim? No, unless you are a swimmer with a disability and have permission from the Race Director.

16. Can I swim with a music device (swimpod)? No.

17. If I have a disability can I still swim in your event? We encourage everyone to swim. We can make adjustments to a person’s specific needs if we know what is needed. We’ve successfully supported swimmers without limbs, hearing impaired and blind. Email with your request and we’ll see if we can make it work. We also offer an express prosthetic limb delivery service from the ferry to the shore. Just let us know before the race.

18. How do I register a swimmer 14 years of age and younger? Email the race director at for specific instructions.

19. What are the award breakdowns?

Mens Skins: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place

Womens Skins: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place

Mens Suits: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place

Womens Suits: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place

There are no special awards for swimmers under 18.

19. Do you know where I can rent a wet suit? Sports Basement ( rents Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuits for $25 for a week and the rental fee can be applied toward purchase within 90 days. Their Presidio store is closest to the club: 415-437-0100.

20. Can I bring my own kayak and help pilot the swim? No, piloting a swim in the San Francisco bay is at times challenging and we use experienced club members for this function.

21. Will I receive an individual time for my swim? Yes, the timing company we hired says each swimmer’s chip will activate as they leave the boat. In past years, the metal boat deck caused interference with some timing chips, but this issue appears to be resolved. We do the best we can to provide individual times for all swimmers, but this is not a race, it is a fundraising event for the South End Rowing Club.

22. How do I find the results of my swim? As soon as results are available they will be posted at several locations in front of the club at 500 Jefferson Street, adjacent to Aquatic Park. A link to results also will be posted on our event webpage later that same day and will be e-mailed to all registered swimmers.

23. If I purchased a spectator pass, will I be allowed to ride on the boat with the swimmers? YES! Spectators and swimmers will go out on the Red & White Ferry.

24. If I am a spectator on the boat, will I get back to the finish line in time to see my swimmer finish? If your swimmer can swim a mile in 25 minutes or less, then the answer is typically no. You can get a good view of the race from the end of Municipal Pier.

25. Why am I not receiving the e-mails updating me on your event? We send out 2 emails updating you on our swim prior to the event. These e-mails could be snagged in your e-mail spam filter.

26. Can I ride my bike to the Invitational? We will have a bike valet with our swim bag storage.

27. Where are the restrooms located? Port-a-Potties will be located at the west end of Jefferson Street, adjacent to the finish area at Aquatic Park, just west of the club.

28. Where should I stay? We've compiled a short list of hotels in the immediate area on the A.I. Hotels page. Hotels in the “Fisherman’s Wharf” area of San Francisco are walking distance to the club. Hotels in the “Union Square” area are a cab ride away. Registration opens prior to most of the area’s public transportation options on Sunday.

29. Will coffee be available before the swim? It's super early start, we know. We asked the Starbucks at Beach and Hyde to open early just for the Invitational, but last year it didn’t happen, so no guarantees.

30. Where do I go if I have a spectator ticket? Spectators will be riding the Red & White Ferry with the swimmers. If you bought a spectator pass, a wristband will be in your packet at registration. Spectators will proceed to the ferries with the swimmers. There are a few spectator passes available online. We will not be selling spectator passes day of.

31. When does the timing start? Your time will start when you jump off the boat and will end when you cross the finish line. Some people registered without providing their date of birth. We may ask you at registration to provide this information if its missing.

32. Where can I park my car? Parking in SF stinks. There are multiple street closures planned for Aquatic Park area on race day (including our race). If you can’t find a spot, try the paid lots.

33. Can I take public transit to there? San Francisco is usually an awesome place to ride transit. Not so much at 5:00 am on a Saturday. Be sure to check your times and route Also a quick shout out to SFMTA – their special events department coordinates the bulk of the permits for the South End. Thank you Meryl!

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South End Rowing Club

500 Jefferson St

San Francisco, CA 94109

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