Swimming Waimea Bay

Old Dudes on their SUPs in Waimea Bay on an overcast morning.

In the 31 years I’ve lived in Hawaii, the only thing I’ve ever done at Waimea Bay is watch surfers, take pictures, and get my ankles wet in the foamy beach break. Yesterday I swam 1.2 miles there. You cannot see where the blue bottoms out. The boulders under the water are amazingly huge. Ripples terraced across the sandy bottom look much closer than they really are. In the winter, it is home to world-famous, man-eating waves. In the summer, it’s calm. Except this summer. It has been so windy and chilly this summer that wherever we expect glassy flat conditions we instead get bumpy wind swells. We adjust.

John probably thought it was funny to get the rainbow near my head.
In my Pearl Izumi trisuit. We like to call it the “Pearly Zoomer.” LIKE! RECOMMEND! I got it for this swim series, the Honolulu Tinman, The Na Wahine, and the Waikiki Rough Water Swim.

When I first got to the bay it was about 6:20 a.m. I went down to the beach to check out the conditions. It was calm, the bay was glassy, and I watched several turtles swim by me. A couple of old surfer dudes (I guess I should be careful about this because they could be my age!) had launched on their stand-up paddle boards (SUPs) and headed west toward Chun’s Reef. I would have loved to have joined them. By the time we swimmers started at a little after 9 a.m., the wind had picked up and the bay had some chop to it.

Jump Rock, and the little islands off its point. We had to swim in the channel between those two rocks. Bumpy!
Getting tips from my senior v.p. Yep. Some of us who work together even get to play together! The Dude is FAST.

For the second of the Surf and Sea North Shore Summer Swim Series, swimmers signed up to launch from a water start by Jump Rock, swim across the bay and close to shore and around buoy A, out toward the mouth of the bay and around buoy B, across the mouth of the bay to a pair of big rocks, swimming around the one named Blue Lagoon and then swimming between those two big rocks, and then back toward shore and the finish at the center of the beach.

At that point, we exit at the beach break, and run (insert your interpretation here (I “run” like a sissy girl and I am a little dizzy when I get out of the water)) up a steep slope and across the pad to register the chip and where kind and gracious people remove the chip strapped around your ankle (at this point, you couldn’t possibly bend over and do it yourself).

The men launch. The wahine wait on the beach. Yes, it’s chaos.

Five minutes after the men launched we women got the horn to take off. It was crowded. I was anxious. Part of me wants to relax and hold back, and part of me wants to give it all she’s got. So I did. There was some bumping around initially and it wasn’t until after the first buoy did the swimmers start to thin out. We circle with the buoys to our left and it can get a little hairy at those points. But by the time I got to the first buoy I passed a couple of guys. Inconceivable! But yes it is true. I passed guys all the way around the bay. I noticed by about the second buoy a woman in a black and blue swim suit who was swimming about the same speed as me, so I kept her to my left. At times we were close to each other, crowded by other swimmers, but I tried to keep my distance. No one really needs to be in anyone else’s way if the swimmers have stretched out beyond the start. As we swam through the channel between the two giant rocks, the waves were quite turbulent. I didn’t have any trouble navigating them and I didn’t get a mouthful while breathing. After we got through the channel, I felt a surge of energy and got crashed into by some stupid guy, so I was inspired to put some power into my output and I kicked like heck.

Women: A sea of swim caps, arms, and legs.

I completed the 1.2-mile swim, with that gawd-dang run up a steep sandy hill, in 48:36, a pace 5-minutes faster than the first swim on June 23 from Sunset Beach to Pipeline.

John: The Hubs, Chief Photographer, Driver, Sherpa, Beast of Burden, Smilin’ Friendly Dude.

I think the training and the conditioning and incorporating the techniques are paying off. I’d like to thank The Academy, The Oahu Club Masters Coaches Joe & Tom Lileikis, KC Carlberg and the TryFitness Hawaii coaches, and the handsome dude who so charmingly convinced me to say “I do!”

I emerge. I wonder if it took me 36 seconds to get up that hill?

Mind you, I’m no threat out there. This is all about personal bests, completion, accomplishment, achievement, and ferociously frightened of being a soft, fat, and sexless old lady.

See how many people finished before me.

The next swim is from Chun’s Reef to the same finish at Waimea Bay (and that steep hill!). But now that I know about that hill, and swimming through that little archipelago, part of the mental struggle is over.

I must say, though, that when we passed Chun’s and drove toward Waimea Bay, it felt pretty long at 1.6 miles. OK. I wonder how I’ll do?

Touched out by swimmer friend. The clock says 53:33, but you have to wind it back five minutes for the women’s times.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. So jealous, I wish I could do these races. I hope this means you are joining us for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim?

  2. Why YES IT DOES, Lynn!!! Two more in the series, the Duke and the Rough Water! Let’s connect!

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