Team entering danger zone for charitable swim 

On Saturday, six Bay Area residents will strive to set a record by swimming 28 miles through the notorious Red Triangle, known for its cold temperatures and deadly shark attacks.

It would be the first time a relay team completed the dangerous swim, which starts at the Farallon Islands and ends at the Golden Gate Bridge, said Vito Bialla, one of the swimmers. Other relay teams have tried it before, but failed after the tide turned, he said.

“We are going to make a real go at being the first team to do it, and I want to be a part of that,” said Phil Cutti, who will be the first swimmer on the relay team.

The swim will start at 6 a.m. at the Farallon Islands, a spot roughly 30 miles away from San Francisco known for its abundant marine life and great white sharks. Each swimmer will traverse the waters for an hour at a time, wearing only a swimsuit, goggles and a water cap. They expect the entire journey to take as long as 14 hours.

“The sharks show up in August and hang out through October, eat seals, then move to Hawaii,” Bialla said. “They are as predictable as clockwork, and we are banking on that track record.”

Then again, Bialla said he will be too cold to even worry about sharks during the swim. Temperatures are expected to dip to 50 degrees, and winds can get heavy and the water is choppy in the summertime, he said.

“When you first dive in and it’s cold, if you open your mouth, it feels like your teeth want to crack and your sinuses get so cold and it feels like sandpaper all over your body,” Bialla said.

But the hazardous swim will be well worth it, the team said. It’s not just about setting a record: The swim group is doing it to raise money for Wounded Warrior, a charity organization that helps veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered injuries.

The swimmers said they do not know how much money they have raised to date, but in previous relay swims — including the English Channel last year — they brought in more than $49,000 for charity.

“Cold-water swimming is addictive,” Bialla said. “It’s hypnotic and magical and wonderful.”


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