A 7-year-old Arizona boy on Monday became one of the youngest ever to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park.
Braxton Bilbrey, a second-grader from Glendale, Ariz., who has completed several short-scale youth triathlons, jumped in the chilly waters shortly after 7 a.m. to start the estimated 1.4-mile swim with his coach and two other adults.
“It kind of seems like a long way, but I’m not totally worried,” Braxton said before the attempt. “It’s not that far.”
His mother, Stacey Bilbrey, said she is confident her son is well-prepared and has worked hard for it.”
Alcatraz, once a notorious federal prison that housed some of the nation’s infamous criminals, including Chicago mobster Al Capone, is now a tourist site that attracts about 1 million visitors a year. It also draws a fair share of swimmers who attempt the crossing as part of the annual Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.
The second-grader got the idea when he saw a magazine story about a 9-year-old boy who made the swim. Johnny Wilson, a fourth grader from Hillsborough completed the swim in 53-degree waters last October in under two hours.
When Braxton asked his swim coach, Joe Zemaitis of Scottsdale, Ariz., if he thought he could do it, Zemaitis said he thought the second-grader could, thinking he meant some time before he turned 9.
“If you were to ask me if a 7-year-old is old enough to do it, I’d say maybe one out of 10 million,” Zemaitis said. “But he’s that one.”
Braxton has been training two hours a day four times a week. He also did training swims in several Arizona lakes and a trip to the San Francisco Bay last month.