Nine Year Old Completes Record Breaking Swim To Alcatraz


A nine-year-old boy may have set a new world record Monday, as he swam three miles in the cold waters of the San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island and back.

Thousands watched live on Facebook, as James Savage made his attempt and completed it in front of family and friends.

Our own crew had an exclusive chance to follow James on a boat throughout his journey.

You can see it in his face. You can hear it in his voice. Nine year old James Savage is ready to give up.

He’s on a mission to become the youngest swimmer to brave the chilly San Francisco waters and make his way to Alcatraz Island and back.

But the choppy waves and strong current make him think twice.

James has been preparing for this day for months.

“Training at the dam and swim practice,” James said.

We caught up with him during training last week at the Los Banos Creek Reservoir. He swam three miles almost everyday just to prepare.

James started the record setting goal at seven in the morning.

“I’m about to break the world record,” James said.

With confidence, the nine year old scoped out his competition, the big blue bay.

“It looks pretty calm today, I hope it’s not that hard,” James said.

But thirty minutes later, out in the open water and still hundreds of yards from the island, the waves made the goal seem impossible.

“We had a little bit of a chop, about a one to two foot wind chop,” Capt. Brent McLain said.

But with dad in the kayak and Coach Josh swimming beside, giving up wasn’t an option. So coach josh did everything he could to get james to move.

“It was tough, I mean I was going through my playbook, what do I tell him, I’ll try this, I’ll try that, I’ll try that, until we finally found something that worked,” Josh Weinberger said.

Slowly, the two conquered each yard one by one. And after a few minutes, something in james changed. And those short bursts of strides grew longer and longer.

And the island grew closer and closer, until finally James could touch it.

Then, all he had to do was swim back. With the waves calming down and james’s newly found burst of energy, the nine year old made the mile and a half swim back to shore.

And finally after more than two hours of paddling, James set foot on sand and walked slowly into his mother’s arms.

Back on shore, James explained why he wanted to quit.

“It made me mad,” James said.

Saying the waves made him irritated.

“I thought they’d be a lot calmer,” James said.

And it was coach and dad who kept him going.

“I wanted to turn back, they kept on going I believe in you, you can do it,” James said.

The guinness book of world records says this attempt is a new record, so James would be the first to hold it.

With emotions riding high all around, it was an exhausting but unforgettable day for everyone.

“It’s surreal. It’s surreal while it’s happening. It’s surreal now,” Weinberger said.

Everyone in awe a nine year old could make a swim, especially Greg Friedman who attempted the feat, but suffered a cramp halfway through.

“He did this, how many people can say they’ve done this, let alone his age. There’s nothing in the world that can stop him. He can do whatever he puts his mind to,” Friedman said.

But Dad said he never lost faith.

“He just needed to push through it to get to his second wind. Once he got through that, he was good to go, he just kept on trucking the rest of the way,” Erik Savage said.

It’s a story that’s been shared across the country and thousands watched the entire journey live through Facebook, sharing their own words of encouragement.

Mom says she’s afraid of what James will want to do next, but knows this was an experience and an accomplishment of a lifetime.

“He finally got to do what he wanted to do. He made his dreams become a reality,” Jillian Savage said.

James says his next goal is to swim the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. Jillian says it could take up to 12 weeks for Guinness to officially approve the world record.

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