Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Burbank business owner swims from Alcatraz to San Francisco for a second time

Jim Zinger, 76, recently swam from Alcatraz Island to St. Francis Beach in San Francisco. This is his second time doing so, with the first occurring 12 years ago.
(Jim Zinger)

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

However, when a friend asked if he would make the roughly 2-mile crossing a second time as an early birthday gift to himself during Memorial Day weekend, he couldn’t say “no.”

Zinger, 76, founder and chief executive of a hypnotherapy business in Burbank called Hypmovation, jumped into the San Francisco Bay and swam from the historical landmark to St. Francis Beach — 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 1 to 2 miles about three to five times a week in the ocean wherever I am,” Zinger said.


His aquatic trek over this past weekend smashed his original time of an hour and 42 minutes — nearly an hour better.

What’s even more surprising is that Zinger, who now lives in Naples, Fla., but owns property in Glendale, didn’t wear a wet suit while swimming in the 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.”


People told him to be wary of any sharks or sea lions in the water during the 2-mile experience, but neither bothered him at all.

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

Feeling confident, Zinger thought going on a 2-mile swim in very cold water would make for a great 65th birthday gift to himself.

He trained by going open-water swimming in 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.”

After honing his technique and accomplishing the feat for a second time in over a decade, Zinger said he wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.