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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > October 2017 > SNATCHING VICTORY FROM THE DEVIL’S TEETH


Only five humans have managed to swim from the storied Farallon Islands to mainland California. By Elaine K Howley


Shortly after finishing his 2014 swim from the Farallon Islands to Muir Beach in Marin County, California, north of San Francisco, Craig Lenning, now 38, of Denver, Colorado, gave an interview to a local news station. The 41.3-kilometre (25.6-mile) swim was big news in the San Francisco Bay area, as Lenning was the first swimmer in 47 years to complete it. In the interview, Lenning said: “This was a tough one. This was the biggest one I’ve ever done, just ‘cause the mystique of it, the cold, the magical islands off the coast…”

In his 1974 tome, Wind Waves and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming, historian Conrad Wennerberg also listed the Farallon Islands to Mainland swim as one of “the toughest swims in the world,” on par with a double English Channel swim and a crossing of the frigid Strait of Juan de Fuca. What makes it so tough is a combination of very cold water (typically 10 to 15 degrees Celsius), potentially dangerous sea life and strong tidal flows and currents.

Although they lie a mere 30 miles southwest of the bustling metropolis of San Francisco, the Farallon Islands are a remote, desolate smattering of jagged rock islands moored in a foggy expanse of the Pacific Ocean teeming with life. The islands are now a protected marine sanctuary with strict regulations prohibiting humans from accessing, but sailors in the 1850s dubbed them the Devil’s Teeth because of their proclivity for snaring and wrecking passing ships. The Farallons also mark the westernmost point of the so-called Red Triangle, a loosely-defined area from Monterey Bay about 70 miles south of San Francisco to Bodega Bay 120 miles to the north that’s home to significant great white shark activity.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

To paraphrase Ethel Merman, everything in the world of outdoor swimming is coming up roses. There may be thorns (such as FINA’s wrongheaded wetsuit rules), but we are undergoing a period of exciting growth with more and more people swimming outdoors and distance records being smashed around the world. One of the trailblazers in the world of marathon swimming is Sarah Thomas. In ‘Century Swim’ we meet her to talk about her mind-blowing 104-mile world record swim. For many outdoor swimmers, autumn is time to hang up wetsuits and swimming costumes until spring next year. With that in mind this issue is a pool training special, including a beginners’ guide to swim training aids. But your swimming season needn’t end now – in ‘Extend your Season’ I look at how and why you should swim outdoors all year round. If you’re anything like me, a lot of your time is spent procrastinating about getting into cold water. Our competition this month is to win the ‘Outdoor Swimmer’s Guide to Faffing’ calendar (and a snowflake swimming hat) by artist and outdoor swimmer Nancy Farmer. Check out the competition on page 23. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming. Jonathan Cowie Editor