They say a channel is never over till it’s over. I discovered the truth of that a little over two weeks ago when I tackled the ominous Ka’iwi channel (also known as The Channel of Bones).
Let’s rewind a few years to take you back to where it all started for me. I was a lone traveller and found myself on the big island of Hawaii competing in my first ever open water swimming race with the island of Maui looming in the distance. A fleeting thought crossed my mind: “Has anyone ever swum to that island before?”
That fleeting thought almost five years ago had led me back to the islands of Hawaii, this time to Oahu. It was a whole new story this time round. I had a newfound love of the ocean. It had become a part of me and I could not imagine life without it. Four years of training and dreaming had reached its pinnacle.
Myself, John and Sarah (coach) spent almost 48 hours travelling from our home in Durban, South Africa, to literally the opposite side of the world. We arrived in Hawaii on Friday afternoon and made our way along the five-lane highway to the home of our gracious and legendary host, Linda Kaiser where we would base ourselves for the next three weeks.
I have been communicating with Linda for the past four years via e-mail about the logistics of this swim and when we were struggling to find accommodation, Linda generously offered for us to stay in her home. Never in my dreams would I have imagined being able to stay with a woman I have come to admire and respect as an accomplished channel swimmer. Linda is the only person who has swum all the channels in Hawaii. She has a wealth of experience in terms of ocean swimming and I was so amped to meet her and get to stay with her!
Once we had settled in we headed straight to Sandy’s Beach, the planned finish of my swim. We were all a little dazed but we walked 800m down the beach, hopped in with our goggles and floated along the coastline to Sandy’s with the warm, delicious, blue water lapping around us as we marvelled at the coral and fish life teeming below us.
On Saturday morning we joined some of Linda’s friends for a chilled 5km swim in equally stunning water. By lunch time there was a very real possibility of the swim happening the very next day! I did a light gym session in the afternoon to awaken my muscles after all the travelling and disjointed sleep and had a very restless, mostly sleepless night with the knowledge that the very next night I may be swimming the channel I have been dreaming about and talking about for over four years.
Sunday arrived and by 9am the final call was made. We had the green light and it was all systems go. My team put their game faces on and picked up some last minute provisions, including the shark devices from Wilson at E Shark Force. John dropped off our kit at the escourt boat. The plan was for the boat to take our supplies and provisions across and for us to fly. The reason for this was to avoid sea-sickness in the big swell and to save my strength for the crossing. We would rendevous at the starting point of my swim a few hours later.
We booked our flights to Molokai and I had a short power nap before Linda drove us to the airport. We were only 20m down the road when Linda reminded us about our IDs! We turned around and I ran into the house to get my and Sarah’s passports. John had his new South African ID on him. The airport was tiny and we were greeted by very friendly staff. The passport control lady was delighted to see a South African green mamba passport as she had never seen one before! John (who we had already nicknamed “Problem Child” on this trip for various reasons) was almost denied access to the passport control as he did not have his passport, only his ID. Thankfully he passed the book test and was let through but not before they gave him a thorough body search. This broke the tension and had Sarah and I in hysterics. It was good to laugh and such a relief to be on the plane.
Our pilot – also named Sarah – led us onto a tiny 10 seater plane. We were all very excited despite Coach Sarah’s mild fear of flying.
I realised how tiny we are in this world
It was the first time any of us had flown to the start of a swim! It became very real looking down at the vast expanse of The Pacific Ocean below us and I realised how tiny we are in this world and how tiny I would be in that vast, deep, blue ocean. The actual distance between Molokai and Oahu didn’t look too bad relative to the expanse of ocean surrounding the islands. It was very humbling.
The flight took 30 minutes. It takes three hours by boat and I was about to swim back… SURREAL.
It was another 30 minute cab drive to the beach. Chase, our driver was very friendly and gave us a little rundown of the island on the way. Molokai is a tiny island inhabited by only 7000 people most of who work at the hotels on the island. It is a sparse island and there is not much there. People who visit Molokai go there to do nothing and escape the chaos of the world we live in. The Sheraton Hotel where we were to meet our boat is derelict and almost eerie. There were a handful of people on the beach and by the pool when we arrived. I was relieved to spot our little boat in the ocean and we settled on the beach to wait. It was 6:30pm. Our planned launch time was 10pm. Three and half hours to wait.