Gary Emich is a very avid swimmer. His name is synonymous with open water swimming worldwide. He has literally swum in some of the most challenging waters in the world.
Living on Pedro Point, he has a short walk to Linda Mar Beach where almost daily he can be found swimming laps. If he’s not on the beach, he’s driving to Aquatic Park in San Francisco where he joins friends of the South End Rowing Club for a daily workout.
In June 2013, Emich made history by being the first person to complete 1,000 swims from Alcatraz Island without a wetsuit or fin. He has since added more Alcatraz swims to his record.
In addition to this astounding achievement, his swimming resume includes the predator-infested Amazon River, Peru’s Lake Titicaca, which is the world’s highest navigable lake at 12,500 feet, Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness, the fabled Turkish Hellespoint which crosses from Europe to Asia, the 12-mile Rottnest Island Prison swim in the shark-infested waters of the Indian Oceana off Western Australia, and a 10-mile aquatic version of San Francisco’s popular Bay-to-Breakers race, swimming from the Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach. Relay crossings includes the English Channel, Catalina Channel, Santa Barbara Channel, Monterey Bay, the Bay of Naples (Italy), the Strait of Gibraltar from Europe to Africa and a 12-mile interisland relay in Fiji.
Besides being an accomplished and well-traveled open water swimmer, Emich, 72, is also a writer, coach and race director. For years, he has organized races and noncompetitive swims. He has organized fundraising swims for organizations.
It’s no wonder that he recently got a call from Kiel, Germany, requesting his help to establish a first-ever open water swimming event there.
“Since 2017, Kiel, Germany, and San Francisco have been sister cities collaborating to bring together people, organizations and events from these two remarkable ports,” said Emich. “I was contacted to help with the event by Dirk Lonnemann, a member of the Kiel swimming community. It was exciting to be asked to represent San Francisco.”
“After four years of working with local German authorities, permission finally was secure to conduct the inaugural Kiel Lighthouse Open Water Swim,” added Emich, who was invited to participate as a swim ambassador from the Bay Area.
Bay Area swimmer Kristine Buckley (the only female with more than 1,000 Alcatraz swims), joined Emich for the trip to Germany where they presented the mayor of Kiel with an official proclamation from the city of San Francisco.
The noncompetitive swim covered two distances: 2 ½ miles and nearly 9 miles. Emich and Buckley joined 100 other swimmers in the 65-degree water; both opted for the shorter swim.
“The proclamation commended the swimmers from both cities for raising awareness for clean oceans, for showcasing San Francisco’s Baykeeper, a nonprofit organization that protects San Francisco Bay from pollution, as a role model in preserving clean water, and solidarity in promoting the importance of addressing climate change,” said Emich.
“In conjunction with the weekend’s swim, Kiel’s International Marine Film Festival Cinemara partnered with San Francisco’s International Ocean Film Festival to bring the oceans ashore and onto the cinema screens, thereby also promoting the need for a clean ocean environment,” said Emich. “Tentative plans call for a reciprocal swim next April when the San Francisco International Film Festival will host Kiel’s international Marine Film Festival Cinemare.”
A tell all memoir: Three years ago, former Major League Baseball player Keith Hernandez wrote a book titled “I’m Keith Hernandez – A Memoir.” Today, the book is currently on sale at the Pacifica Coastside Museum.
Hernandez went from the playgrounds of Pacifica to the ballparks of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. He earned 11 consecutive Gold Gloves, a National League co-MVP Award and a batting title. He led the1982 Mets team to the World Series championship. The book reveals as much about the man himself as his baseball career.
Hernandez grew up on Hermosa Avenue in Linda Mar, just a couple of blocks from another Pacifica MLB player, Bob McClure, who grew up on Bower Road. They played Little League together and then, amazingly, against each other in the 1982 World Series when McClure pitched for Milwaukee Brewers.
In the memoir, Hernandez talks fondly of growing up in Linda Mar, playing at White Field, fishing in San Pedro Creek and running through the artichoke fields before all the housing tracts were developed in Linda Mar. There are photos of his Little League teams in the book and he shares his memories of his early baseball coaches. Following his freshman year at Terra Nova, he and his family moved to Millbrae.
The museum is located at 1850 Francisco Blvd. And, while you are there to buy the book, why not tour the museum. Tours are hosted by Pacifica History Society docents from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. There is no admission fee.
Still coaching: Last Thursday, former Terra Nova/Oceana football coach Bill Gray completed his 52nd year of coaching high school football. After retiring at Terra Nova in 2014 he moved to South Dakota. It wasn’t too soon after relocating that he joined the coaching staff of Chamberlain High School.
In an email message he said, “Our season concluded with a win over Custer, S.D. We finished the season 2-7. The team was very young and ravaged by injuries. We moved up a division of enrollment, which was a pretty tough schedule. But the kids, coaches and community are great despite our record. I’m looking forward to a 53rd season, if all goes well.”
Horace Hinshaw is Tribune sports editor emeritus.