Three young, blind athletes from Arizona completed a “Braille Break from Alcatraz” swim over the weekend, crossing a stretch of the Bay between the famous island prison and the San Francisco shoreline.
The three swimmers competed in the 1.5-mile South End Rowing Club of San Francisco’s 2013 Alcatraz Invitational Swim in the frigid Bay waters Sunday morning through the Phoenix-based organization Foundation for Blind Children.
Max Ashton, 17, a high school senior in Phoenix, finished the race from Alcatraz to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park in a little more than 50 minutes.
He said he was guided by three other swimmers who made sure he stayed on course.
“It was really tough, but I made it,” Ashton said in a phone interview Monday. “We’re still all here, everyone finished. None of us got eaten by sharks.”
He had been training for the race at Arizona’s Lake Pleasant, outside of Phoenix, for the past five months but he said the cold water was still a shock.
When he came out of the water with his fellow visually impaired swimmers—Katie Cuppy, 19, and Tanner Robinson, 24, — people on the beach cheered.
He said his dad also swam in the race, while his mother, sister and grandparents supported him from shore.
Ashton is no stranger to challenges. Through the Foundation for Blind Children he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and hiked the Grand Canyon in a day.
“This was our next adventure,” he said of the “jail break” swim.
He had toured the island prison on Saturday, and took a ferry to the starting spot for the swim Sunday morning.
Ashton said he used the same tough mindset he relied on during the arduous hikes.
“I thought, ‘I gotta keep going,’” he said.
On Monday, he was visiting Stanford and Santa Clara universities as he prepares to go to college next year.
He said he wants to go to a California or East Coast school, but he doesn’t know yet what he will study.
Ashton does know that he wants to keep challenging himself.
“It’s really fun pushing myself and setting these extreme goals,” he said.
He doesn’t know what the next adventure will be, but he has decided to go skydiving on his 18th birthday in April.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News