Sharkfest by Sarah Oxford

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“Make sure to stay calm, have fun and focus on your target,” advised a veteran Sharkfest swimmer as we approached Alcatraz, a historical landmark located in the legendary shark-infested San Francisco Bay. Over 800 swimmers anxiously stared out the ferry windows as water temperature (59°) and safety protocols were announced over a loud speaker. A sea of 101 orange swim caps bobbed around the boat, clashing with the mandatory yellow worn by all other swimmers. “Why do you wear orange?” asked my new swimming mentor.

a picture of Sarah Oxford at sharkfestHydrocephalus motivated me to take the big plunge. Team Hydro swims to fundraise for the Kate Finlayson Research Grant. Kate is a girl around my age who has endured over 100 brain surgeries. Swimming in cold water with sharks seems trivial compared to her journey. She has inspired us and we want to fund research to help her and others living with hydrocephalus.
As I spoke, I saw a coast guard shaking his head back and forth. A man’s voice mumbled through the speaker as our hearts pounded faster and faster. The coast guard announced the course too dangerous; the swim would not take place from Alcatraz as the fog was too thick! We would return to shore for a beach start.

Participants, pumping with adrenaline, booed and grunted. My mentor responded, “Well we’re still swimming! It doesn’t matter where we start because we’re all swimming for Kate.” I put my goggles back on my head and said, “yes we are!”

Team Hydro has raised $73,000 to date, securing the 2011 Kate Finlayson Research Grant. The water was cold, but luckily the sharks stayed away and Team Hydro conquered Sharkfest. To learn more about Team Hydro go to

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