Zada Taft - Mother of San Francisco Bay Swimming.

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Diddo Clark

Jan 14, 2011, 9:47:59 PM1/14/11
to Open Water Race Directors
Zada Taft - Mother of San Francisco Bay Swimming.

Zada Taft, 1919-2002, was the first woman to swim the Strait of the
Golden Gate. She competed in Golden Gate swimming races for 50
years. For 40 of those years, women weren’t allowed in those races -
but Zada competed anyway. The San Francisco Chronicle reported, on
September 25, 1939, that: “Gear Wins Swim, Uninvited Girl Star is
Sixth - Sneaks By Judges to Enter (the) South End (Rowing Club’s) Gate
Event for 2nd Year. Jack Gear, husky young machinist, paddled his way
to an easy win in the annual South End Golden Gate swim in 27 minutes
flat yesterday, but it remained for an unofficial entry to steal the
show. Zada Weed, blonde Crystal Plunge swimmer, barred by rules which
prevent feminine stars from competing, sneaked into the water while
the judges were looking the other way and proceeded to come home a
nifty seventh, finishing in front of 18 men contenders. Zada also
completed the course last year. Twenty-four South Enders and Miss
Weed started on the Marin side of the bridge and all finished.
Usually the Coast Guard has to fish out a few exhausted swimmers.”

Zada Weed Taft competed in 16 Golden Gate Swim races. She was the
only swimmer who competed in South End Gate races in the 1930s and in
the 1980s. In the 1930s, she was the youngest swimmer in South End
Rowing Club Golden Gate races. In 1987, seventy six swimmers started
the South End’s 57th annual Golden Gate race. Strong currents swept
the competitors out to sea and most of them failed to touch the finish
line at Lime Rock on the Marin side. The oldest finisher was 68 year
old Zada Taft.

Zada completed a large number of Alcatraz swims and, in 1953, swam
across the Bay from San Francisco’s Pier 7 to Treasure Island. In the
1950s, Zada and Ray Taft created the Taft Swim School in San Mateo.
In the 1970s, they founded the first Masters swim team - the San Mateo
Master Marlins. U.S. Masters Swimming conferred on Zada and Ray the
highest award in Masters Swimming - the Ransom Arthur Award.
According to Zada: “Everything they’ve had since the beginning of
time that had a woman in it, I’ve been in it. ... I’m not the fastest
or the most graceful (swimmer) but I love it.”

Zada and Ray Taft were also among the war heroes of the Greatest
Generation. During World War II, Ray was a medic in the Pacific
theater and won medals for valor. Zada labored in the shipyards and
set records for riveting more ship seams than anyone else. She was
one of the Rosie-the-Riveters without whom our side would not have won
the war.

Respectfully submitted, Diddo Clark, FOZ (friend of Zada), (925)

Zada the Swimmer

© Diddo Clark and Robert Prestegaard, 2002
to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon”

In the 1930s, when men wrote ALL the rules,
THEY could swim the Golden Gate; women were confined to pools.
Sixteen year old Zada yearned to swim the Gate.
Pondering ways around the rules, a plan she did create.

(Chorus) Zada the swimmer swam far across the Bay
And lived a long and happy life with her dear husband Ray.

One Gate-race morning, men flocked to the start.
A BROTHERHOOD of daring-do - NOT for the FAINT-OF-HEART.
Zada slipped among them, an interloper she.
Thirty minutes later and - that gal made history.

(Chorus) Zada the swimmer swam far across the Bay
And lived a long and happy life with her dear husband Ray.

For 60 years thereafter, Zada swam and loved and laughed
And raised 3 lovely children with her soulmate Ra-ay Taft.
Mother of Bay Swimming, 50 years she swam the Gate.
Women swim it freely now, with thanks to Zada the Great!

(Chorus) Zada the swimmer swam far across the Bay
And lived a long and happy life with her dear husband Ray.
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