This is a profile from the River Swimmers section of my Overlooked New York website.

Bonnie, age 27, didn't swim in the Hudson last year; she was training for her swim across the English Channel. She's glad to be back in New York water again.

“I got started swimming in the river when I was about a month away from graduating college, and one of my friends called me from here and said, ‘Hey, we're going to do this relay race around Manhattan and we need a last person—will you join us?’ Of course I said yes, right away, without thinking about it! So I did the race, and I had so much fun, jumping in the river and swimming through all the bridges, that I decided that next year I was going to do the whole race solo.

“Everybody talks about Hell's Gate, which is that area where the Harlem River meets the East River: it's rumored that sometimes, if the currents are right, the ships can't even get through it. There was one time that I was swimming in the race around the city, and I was swimming up the East River, and I was all excited that I was doing the swim. And then I saw the sign in front of the FDR Drive that said 155th Street and 8th Avenue, and I was like, ‘Sweet! I'm moving up the river!’ And a half an hour later, I was still in front of the sign. And then another half hour after that I was still in front of that sign! Eventually I was able to cut through it and finally make it all the way around.

“Another time, on one of the training swims we did—it was in preparation for setting up the race around the city—we had a city boat, and we did a swim from Battery Park, up underneath the three bridges, just so we could test out the tides. I lived on the East Side at the time, so I went all the way down to Battery Park, and we swam all the way around the park, up under the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge, and when we got up to near the Water Club, they said, "OK, that's all we need, you can jump into the boat and we'll go back down to Battery Park". But I said, ‘This is silly, I live on the East Side, I don't want to have come all the way back up here by subway.’ So I climbed up on the boat, and we pulled right up to the Water Club where everybody's eating lunch and having a lovely afternoon, and like Swamp Thing I crawled over the barrier by the Water Club, and they threw me my bag over the side and I got dressed and went back home!

“It's a fabulous view, it's a great way to see the skyline and the bridges—the bridges are much cooler from underneath—and it's just exciting! I mean, there's only so much excitement you can create for yourself, swimming in a pool—which I do manage to do, since I love swimming—but it's so much more exciting when you have elements of nature ... well, in this case, city ... it's extreme swimming.“


Zina Saunders 2013