Swim 1: Hawaii
In a word: Hawaii
There really isn't much more to say to capture in one word the essence of a Hawaii swim. John and I have a lot of experience swimming in Hawaii. We have swum the 28 mile stretch between Molokai and Oahu as well as various inter-island swims from Maui. I've swum eleven marathon swims in Hawaii and this one had all the classic signs of a beautiful Hawaii swim. Crystal clear warm (almost too warm) water. Great visibility. With this swim along the shoreline, instead of island to island like the previous ten swims, we saw the bottom nearly the entire way. Thousands of fish, fortunately not jellyfish, and even a pod of around two dozen skinner dolphins a few minutes from the finish. Mostly clear skies at sunrise, with the sun ducking behind the mountains or the low clouds depending on our angle. Breathing left, we saw the limitless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, just beyond John who was swimming on my left side. Breathing right, behind our friend Steve, was the incredible views of Hawaii’s island landscape: green everywhere, mountains, valleys, an amazing sight.
In what will likely be the only such occurrence during the Ultimate Swim-a-Thon, we were joined by a third person in the water. My friend Steve Minaglia was instrumental in planning
g the route and getting the support crew. He had swum this route before and we were happy to have him in the water with us. Our observer was Brandon Johnson. Brandon, who I met through swimming when I was 13, lives on Oahu and will be coming Stateside to join us for the first six days of the RV leg from Oregon to New York. He got the party started early by joining us for the early morning swim off Oahu's western edge.
At the start we ran into the water from the dry sand, and it was exhilarating. Years of planning, months of specific training, days of anticipation, and even moments of doubt and it was all coming together!
The ease of the first mile gave way to a challenging second mile as we faced off against some head current. When we came around the first point the current eased, but the wind picked up. Though this route was an hour from the airport we had to race there after finishing. It was selected because of the consistency of the conditions. While we battled some of the elements throughout the journey it never put us at a standstill. As typically happens in marathon swims, we could see the finish point from a ways off, but it seemed to take forever to grind out the last few miles. Finally our hands hit sand and we had to face the gauntlet of the exit from the water. Navigating the waves and the rocky shoreline can be tricky, but we made it out of the water mostly unscathed. We had hoped with perfect conditions and a possibly favorable current to finish in three hours, but we came in just under 3 hours and 40 minutes. In what would become a theme for the next few days our swim wrapped up and transitioned into a race to the airport.