Meet Your Neighbors: Kingman woman swims Alcatraz

Kingman native Abi Fruhling was surfing the Internet in June when she came across something that piqued her interest – information on the Alcatraz Invitational.

It's a 1.2-mile swim in San Francisco Bay from the famed island to Fisherman's Wharf.

"I thought it would be a great thing to do," Fruhling said.

"I've swum since a young age in pools, but had never done an open-water swim.

"It's a different feeling altogether in the way the water moves.

There are no lines to follow like at the bottom of a pool, so there's a lot of strategy involved."

Fruhling quickly contacted two friends in the Minneapolis area.

Stacey Braschler and Jami Severson graduated with Fruhling from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and agreed to join her for the swim.

Severson had some open-water swimming experience, but Braschler had none, Fruhling said.

Fruhling spent three months preparing for the event.

She swam laps and lifted weights at the Del E.

Webb Wellness and Rehabilitation Center and did some open-water swimming in Lake Mohave.

Alcatraz Invitational participants could enter in wetsuit or non-wetsuit categories, and numbers were fairly well divided in both between men and women.

Fruhling and her friends chose to wear wetsuits, knowing the water temperature of the course was 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

San Francisco Bay gets a lot of boat traffic including barges and cruise liners.

But its water is not dirty, she said.

"My two biggest concerns were cold water and sharks," Fruhling said.

"We were reassured by local residents that there had not been any shark attacks in the bay for at least 10 years.

"One condition I did not take into account though was the salt water getting inside my wetsuit and it rubbing against my skin.

Jami and I both had abrasions when we got out of the water, but we had so much adrenalin going during the swim we didn't feel (the abrasions) until afterward."

Participants wore wrist anklets during the eighth annual event.

Everyone jumped off a ferry into the water off Alcatraz Island with the timers starting for everybody as the first swimmer entered the water.

There were 125 women contestants in the wetsuit category.

Fruhling said she and her two friends finished 38th, 39th and 40th in their classification with times around 40 minutes.

"We just wanted to finish," Fruhling said.

"It being my first open-water swim I didn't know what to expect and I just wanted to be comfortable."

While the course is measured at 1.2 miles, swimmers had to contend with currents so "spotting" the finish line and staying on course was not easy.

Some participants wound up swimming 1.7 miles, depending on how well they "spotted," Fruhling said.

Luther is a four-year liberal arts college.

Fruhling graduated from Luther in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in nursing and soon gained her registered nurse certification.

She is in her second year as the school nurse at Cerbat Elementary School.

Fruhling has just gotten into mountain biking as a hobby.

She also enjoys boating, camping and crafts such as stamping and card making.

She was asked if she plans to enter the Alcatraz Invitational again.

"I can't say, but I'm always looking for a new adventure," Fruhling said.

"I've heard about another race near Reno, Nev.

that's over two miles long to be held next August that I'm researching."

Neighbors is a feature that appears Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.

225.