Courtesy of Elliot Karlan, Tiburon, California.

For over a decade, professional photographer Elliot Karlan has covered the RCP Tiburon Mile from Angel Island to the shoreline in Tiburon in San Francisco Bay.

I love his work,” says Steven Munatones. “I think his photo of the 2007 RCP Tiburon Mile is a classic shot that so beautifully captures the excitement and energy of the sport of open water swimming.

The photo shows the different categories of the race with the elite and Olympic swimmers just entering the water, all going after the US$10,000 first place cash prize. The fastest swimmers of the group – from several countries – all have different colored swim caps so they can be tracked during the race. You can feel the adrenalin rush and see the motivation of these swimmers in the front row. A few have already horizontal in the water while others are charging into the shallows with legs churning and arms swinging.

Behind the first row of the known elites are the next-fastest group of competitive swimmers with their white swim caps. These athletes are similarly focused, but perhaps a bit younger, a stroke slower or less experienced in rough water starts and world-class competitive open water swims. They simply follow the national and world champions a step behind, but with no less enthusiasm and high expectations to place high.

Still standing on shore are the bioprene swimmers with red swim caps. They smile and stand in awe of the fastest swimmers ahead of them, but most of them just want to cross the Raccoon Strait in a good time while having a good time. They know the water is cold and the currents can be tricky, but they look on – some with trepidation and all with a sense of adventure – and will follow the elite heat and the competitive group.

The red caps will follow the line of the elites, hoping to replicate the fastest course across what can be a challenging 1 nautical mile swim.

In the rear stand the neoprene swimmers with their green swim caps and wetsuits. For many of these swimmers, this was the first foray into cold water swimming. They smile and stare at the faster and more experienced athletes, hoping for the best, but expecting something less.

Elliot’s photo is timeless. He took the photo while standing on the starter’s boat about 150 meters offshore. Together with the race announcers and officials, his vantage point was flawless, well-planned and perfectly timed.

Elliot Karlan is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association and a photojournalist for The Ark Newspaper, MarinScope Newspapers who provides professional photography, graphic design, and digital imaging services for clients in the Bay Area and beyond.

Footnote: Two-time American Olympian Chloe Sutton and Russian Olympian and world champion Vladimir Dyatchin won the female and male divisions.

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