In Defense of the Night Swim

It’s evening rush hour, traffic is gridlocked, happy hours are full and noisy, street lights create odd shadows on the street; a typical Tuesday evening in the city. Sometimes the city breathes life into you, to be amongst other people sharing this uniquely human experience. For those other days, when it makes you feel alone, powerless, overwhelmed, or claustrophobic, there is the night swim.

It’s dark when I step out from the office, having wasted the daylight hours indoors at a desk. I make my way along the waterfront, past tourists and commuters, until I reach the beach. My little cove, protected from the strongest tides of the bay, is always waiting for me. As soon as I dive under the water the noise goes away. No longer can I hear the car horns honking just a block or two away, nor do I worry about the shadows on the sidewalk approaching me. Out in the water, just yards away from bike commuters rushing home, it’s me and the bay (and the occasional sea critter). It feels like the other side of a one way mirror.

In the dark I navigate by city lights. Out to the repair on Muni Pier? Sight on the north tower of the bridge. Ready for a sauna? Coit Tower will guide the way. This is a special place at night. Often it’s still but I savor the days when the evening wind stirs the water up and gives you a fun ride. Swimming under the pier in the dark I know I am an explorer, going someplace that is inaccessible to most. The birds congregated around the Bad Becky buoy, bobbing in the waves as they rest, make me feel like a spy; I stay quiet and sneak around so they won’t be disturbed. On a clear night I’ll roll onto my back and perfect my elementary backstroke while stargazing.

No, I don’t feel scared when I dive in at night; I am grateful that I have found one of the most spectacular places in the city.

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