What are the odds? Last week we reported that an Atherton City Council member had swum from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park. It turns out he had coaching from another council member who is a veteran open-water swimmer, Mike Lempres.
Mr. Lempres, who was elected to the five-member Atherton council in November 2014, says he has been doing open-water swims since he was a middle-schooler.
He took a break for a number of years, but "when I returned from (Washington) D.C. about six years ago, I picked it up in earnest," he says.
Mr. Lempres says he has swum from AT&T Park to Aquatic Park, across the Golden Gate; and Angel Island to Tiburon. He has also done several Alcatraz swims including one in December with the water just over 50 degrees, without a wetsuit. In warmer water, his adventures include swims in Southern California, Hawaii, Texas and in several lakes.
Mr. Lempres says open-water swimming is a great activity. "It's adventurous and fun and far less damaging on my joints than running," he says. "The best part is the camaraderie. I swim with the same guys every Saturday morning and we all have breakfast together afterwards."
He usually swims without a wetsuit, and his best time from Alcatraz is slightly under 30 minutes.
Why does he do it? Mr. Lempres says even his family asks that question. "It's kind of crazy, particularly in the winter when we swim in the early morning dark and the cold," without wetsuits, he says, adding, "but I love it."
Mr. Lempres says the swims have "become important to me" for the sense of adventure, but also "the connection I feel to the Bay Area and its history while I'm swimming. My grandfather swam in the same water, and it's one thing that hasn't changed much since he was young."
Most of all, he says, "I enjoy the sense of camaraderie and kinship with the other foolish people who are out there with me."