Among the hearty souls who jump into San Francisco Bay with nothing but their Speedos on — braving the frigid waters, battling the harsh currents and unpredictable undertows, avoiding the barking sea lions — are kids.
Nick Caine was among the first to join New Waves, the youth program of Water World Swim, “The San Francisco Bay swim experts.”
The Atherton teenager was 13 in 2006 when, six weeks after joining New Waves, he completed a round-trip, winter-season swim from Aquatic Park to Alcatraz and back.
Just after his 14th birthday, Caine won the 18-and-under division in the 3½-mile Alcatraz Swim Around. He was sixth in the men’s nonwetsuit division.
In the summer of 2008, entering his sophomore year at Sacred Heart Prep, Caine shattered a world record. The 15-year-old swimmer shaved 15 minutes off the previous best time in the 12.4-mile Anacapa Island to Oxnard Beach solo channel swim, completing the Santa Barbara race in 5 hours, 3 minutes, 53 seconds.
One year later, almost to the day, Caine became the youngest American male to swim the English Channel.
It didn’t exactly go swimmingly for Caine, his boat pilot Eddie Spelling and the crew that included his mother, father and both grandfathers. At one point during the ordeal, the team wasn’t certain which country would be his landing point.
“We ended up missing the current, so I got swept up in Belgium and ended up swimming in place for a couple of hours,” Caine said. “I expected 8 to 10 hours; it ended up being 13 hours.”
Ultimately, the exhausted swimmer did reach the French coast, where he emerged with bloodied hands and feet.
“I had to climb some rocks, couldn’t make it to the sandy beach,” said Caine, adding that other Channel swimmers have faced worse. “Some people had to scale cliffs to finish their swims.”
After a 5-hour rest, Caine returned to the water for a personal, relaxing swim.
“Amazing, exceptional, dedicated, very committed for his age,” said Pedro Ordones, Water World Swim founder and Caine’s coach for the English Channel swim.
Caine also swims indoors.
In his freshman and sophomore years at SHP, he swam the 500-yard freestyle for the varsity team before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. Completely healed from three surgeries that have kept him out of action in the pool and the open water, Caine looks forward to competing next month in his collegiate conference meet.
The Trinity University (Texas) freshman will spend most of next summer in San Francisco Bay.
“I’ve completed 17 Alcatraz crossings, and my goal is 30 by the end of the summer,” Caine said.
WHO: Nick Caine
WHAT: Long-distance swimmer
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 17 Alcatraz crossings, swam the English Channel, set world record in 2008 for Anacapa Island to Oxnard Beach solo channel swim
UP NEXT: Caine has his eyes on a swim around Manhattan Island (28 miles), as well as a return to the English Channel (round-trip this time)