The South End (aka SERC) is one of two swimming-rowing clubs that share a building in Aquatic Park, right next to Hyde St. Pier. It’s a terrific group of welcoming, fun-loving people who are into all things aquatic. What’s more, it’s a San Francisco institution, dating back to 1873. Serious history here! Visitors are welcome for a day use fee of $10. Membership is about $400 for a year, which is an incredible deal.

For occasional bay swimmers, the chief attractions are the warm showers and toasty sauna. But once you join, the real benefit becomes clear: It’s a welcoming community with incredible depths of knowledge about the Bay and a willingness to share their experience with any and all.

If you’re have trouble telling the difference between SERC and the Dolphin Club next door, here’s my take:

– SERC’s building is a bit “saltier” (though a new wing is under construction). The Dolphin Club has a prettier interior, with lots of wood paneling and more of a “clubhouse” feel.
– SERC members tend to be a little more wild and fun loving; Dolphins are more concerned with rules and tradition.
– SERC organizes more swims outside the cove (i.e. outside Aquatic Park).
– SERC has a vibrant handball program. I don’t think the Dolphin club offers this.
– SERC was founded by Irish Americans; Jameson’s whiskey often shows up in the sauna after swim events. Dolphin Club was founded by German Americans and doesn’t allow drinks in the sauna.
– It’s easier to join SERC. Dolphin Club only accepts members at specified times.

Both of them have tons of members who are into swimming in the Bay (both with and without wetsuits, but mostly without), kayaking, rowing, and running. Both have excellent athletes in all of those sports. Both have good safety records and take care to run their events responsibly.

I’m biased, as I’m a South End member — but then, I joined because the Dolphin Club wasn’t accepting new members and I didn’t know the difference anyway. Over time I’ve realized that I was lucky to join the group that suits me best. But at the end of the day, both clubs are great stewards of the Bay and Aquatic Park.

crossposted from Facebook
October 17, 2016 at 09:21AM