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May 1, 2007 > A Polar Bear named Alison

A Polar Bear named Alison

By Beth Booth

We have a Polar Bear in Fremont....maybe one of the youngest ever! Our Fremont Polar Bear is not one of those large white-furred creatures that inhabit ice floes of the Arctic, but a very determined, talented young lady named Alison Perez. In March, Alison completed the requirements of the San Francisco Dolphin Club to achieve the designation of "Polar Bear." The general consensus is that she may be the youngest person to do so. Congratulations Alison!

The Dolphin Club has been a waterfront organization in San Francisco since the late 1870s. Today the Dolphin Club has about 250 active members and represents a wide range of ages. Some members swim and some row. All enjoy the challenge of ocean activities. The Polar Bear challenge began about twenty-five years ago. To earn this honor, members were required to swim 20 miles in the ocean adjacent to Aquatic Park in the Fisherman's Wharf area. Today Polar Bear status requires swimming 40 miles during the three month period between December 21and March 21 each year. All swimming must be done in open water using various landmarks to monitor distance.

Alison joined the Dolphin Club to swim with her aunt and uncle and completed the 40 mile swim this year. She admits that the 49 to 51 degree water temperature is chilly, especially since only a typical bathing suit can be worn; no wetsuits are allowed. She did wear a thermal swim cap and earplugs which helped a bit. Each swim period, using the free-style and breast stroke, took about 45 minutes to cover 1-1/2 miles. Alison swam the 40 mile distance on weekend visits to Aquatic Park during the three month period.

Alison enjoyed the ocean swimming and has scheduled a couple of other related challenges. In September, she'll join other Dolphin Club members on a swim under the Golden Gate Bridge. That will follow a very special event in August - swimming the English Channel with a relay team of six family members.

Alison, a 2006 graduate of Mission San Jose High School, is a freshman at San Jose State University, majoring in English. She is not a swimmer at college but enjoys being in the choir and her studies in Anthropology and the Humanities.

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