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Gary Emich’s Plan, Freely Giving Back

Courtesy of Gabriela Cipriano, San Francisco Bay, California.

Exhilarating. Terrifying. Nerve-Racking.

These are some words people use to describe the open water swim between Alcatraz Island and San Francisco Bay.

And what do they say about the water? Chilling, choppy, and forceful.

Seemingly, Gary Emich has been through it all. It was only his 72nd crossing when fog surrounded him and concealed his view of the shore. Yet, he returned to swim it again. On his 274th crossing, he fought off tides that turned a 40-minute swim into a 1 hour 38 minute swim. Still, he wanted to swim it again. On his 702nd crossing, he had his most dangerous incident yet. He cut his foot down to the bone on a sharp rock at Alcatraz.

But still, the passionate swimmer returned to swim the famed crossing again and again.

His drive would not allow the challenges of the swim to phase him one bit. On June 11th 2013,the 62-year-old conquered the tides that threatened to send him off course. This time, the water was not its average 60°F (15.5°C), but instead it dropped to a shivering 54°F (12°C). However, one thing was similar about this race compared to his previous 999 Alcatraz Island swims. He wasn’t wearing a wetsuit.

His 1000th swim did more than put his name in countless news articles, the likes of which include ABC7News and NY Daily News. He also made history and has accomplished what no human had accomplished before. He set the world record for the most Alcatraz Island swims.

Emich established this record three years ago. Why is his story relevant now?

It is relevant because he wants to pass the torch to a few lucky people of the next generation of open water swimmers. The ASCA Level 2 certified coach would like to assist swimmers in training stronger and swimming faster. However, he doesn’t want to offer his knowledge and expertise for his own personal gain. That’s why he has generously donated his time for phone consultations and his DVD, From Lane Lines to Shore Lines: Your Complete Guide to Open Water Swimming, so that 100% of the proceeds go to charity.

For more information about how Emich can help for any open water swim, visit or email

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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