Lemoore's Bealer swims from Alcatraz Oct. 14 to promote Native American issues

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Lemoore's Stephanie Bealer takes a swim from Alcatraz on October 14 to promote Native American issues.
Lemoore's Stephanie Bealer takes a swim from Alcatraz on October 14 to promote Native American issues.
Photo by Colin Gift

The water in San Francisco Bay is indeed cold this time of year, and it’s even colder in the middle of October. Lemoore’s Stephanie Bealer learned that the hard way after completing a swim from Alcatraz Island to the shore Monday, all in an effort to inspire Native Americans.

At temperatures of 50 to low 60 degrees one can understand why Bay Area residents don’t spend much time swimming in the frigid waters of the bay. But that didn’t stop Bealer from swimming the 1.2 miles from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shoreline. Bealer didn’t swim the treacherous waters around Alcatraz for fun, instead, she’s did it for a cause, one close to her heart.

Bealer, a former naval officer and daughter of a longtime Navy officer at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Dave Bealer, joined several Native Americans from South Dakota, Wisconsin, Washington and California, all of whom made the very cold swim across the bay.

The swim was an almost surreal experience for the young Bealer. "The swim from Alcatraz was exhilarating.  I remember looking over one side as I was swimming freestyle and seeing Alcatraz in the background and thought, “man this is unreal, she recounted.”  “Then I actually stopped and glanced to my right and saw the Golden Gate Bridge, then on my left and saw the Oakland Bay Bridge.  Not many people can say they’ve experienced that.” 

Bealer is one quarter Oneida, a tribe that resides in Wisconsin. Her father is one half Oneida.

Bealer, 30, is a 2001 graduate of Lemoore High School and went on to earn a degree at Fresno State and then serve four years as an officer in the United States Navy. She’s currently working on her master’s degree, and is employed as a site program coordinator for the Owens Valley Career Development Center in Hanford, where she helps Native Americans learn about their culture, improve their lifestyle choices, find employment and much more.

How did it come to this, a 1.2 mile swim through the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay? “It all started when I attended a Native American conference and learned how important it is to bring Native Americans together,” she said. The conference and other events helped her to realize that Native Americans needed to be made more aware of issues related to them, such as diabetes, other health issues.

“The week was challenging since we were incorporating a very healthy diet and a lot of exercise, sometimes swimming twice a day in the bay,” Bealer said.  “Every day we swam to get our bodies acclimated to the water, with our last swim before the big day lasting at least an hour to prepare us for the big swim on Monday.  I would definitely do it again.” 

The national diabetes epidemic is devastating in California tribal communities and across Native American populations. American Indian/Alaska Natives have the highest rates of diabetes of any racial or ethnic group in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Obesity is a leading risk factor of diabetes. Native youth are twice as likely to be overweight than are young people in the general population.

The October swim from Alcatraz was part of PATHSTAR Preservation of Authentic Traditions and Healing). PATHSTAR (www.pathstar.org) conducts year-round activities and events with tribal communities to help inspire healthy eating and active lifestyle practices.

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