Burbank man, 76, makes Alcatraz-to-San Francisco swim for the second time

Jim Zinger, 76, recently swam from Alcatraz Island to St. Francis Beach in San Francisco in about 54 minutes — nearly an hour better than his last time.
(Jim Zinger)

Jim Zinger told himself after swimming from Alcatraz Island to mainland San Francisco 12 years ago that he would never attempt the feat again.

However, when a friend asked if he might make the roughly two-mile crossing a second time as an early birthday gift to himself, he had to give it a go.

Zinger, 76, founder and chief executive of a Burbank hypnotherapy business, jumped into San Francisco Bay and swam from the historical landmark to the mainland just east of the Golden Gate Bridge in about 54 minutes on Saturday.

“Since my first time of swimming from Alcatraz 12 years ago, I’ve become an avid open-water swimmer and swim about one to two miles about three to five times a week in the ocean wherever I am,” Zinger said.


His swim last weekend smashed his original time of 1 hour and 42 minutes — by nearly an hour.

Remarkably, Zinger, who now lives in Naples, Fla., but owns property in Glendale, declined to wear a wetsuit in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay, which was about 52 degrees on Saturday.

He said he uses self-hypnosis to endure any pain he goes through and has had multiple oral and facial surgeries with no anesthetic.

“You can use hypnosis to control your body temperature and keep your core temperature up,” Zinger said. “It’s all about visualizing, emotionalizing and imagining that you’re like an otter or a seal.”


Zinger said he was told to be wary of sharks and sea lions, but neither bothered him at all.

Zinger make the decision to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco the first time after his wife saw a group of people attempting to do it on a television program.

Feeling confident, Zinger thought going on a two-mile swim in very cold water would make for a great 65th birthday gift to himself.

He trained with open-water swimming sessions off Malibu and Santa Monica, but when it came time for him to officially cross the bay, he realized his swimming technique was all over the place.

“I could swim and stay above the water, but I didn’t have any style, speed or class,” Zinger said. “I did have the stamina by using hypnosis.”

Having honed his technique, Zinger said after accomplishing the feat for a second time that he wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.

Carpio writes for Times Community News.


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