Swim with the Fishes


Vertra Elemental Resistance Mick Fanning 28spf facial sunblock and a huge microfiber towel. Mahalo!
Vertra Elemental Resistance Mick Fanning 28spf facial sunblock and a huge microfiber towel. Mahalo!

My second North Shore Swim Series complete, I now look ahead to the Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile Swim on August 24, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Labor Day, and the Na Wahine Festival in September.

I love and I loathe open ocean swims. I love being in the water, I love the rise and fall of the waves, timing my breathing to be on top and clear to keep my eye on the horizon. I love seeing the fish swim beneath me, the turtles flutter by, the coral heads of blue, orange, and gold growing on giant volcanic boulders that hide secrets in every crevice. And I have to admit I’m a little scared, so that’s what I loathe about ocean swims. You really can never be too comfortable. Honestly, swimming out of one’s comfort zone is what makes ocean swimmers remarkable.

Fun waves at Pipeline at the start. Wheeeeee!
Fun waves at Pipeline at the start. Wheeeeee!

We swim as a pod of people, a school of swimmers, a herd of humans. I often think of those nature documentaries where the hungry beasts of prey take down the easiest, the smallest, and the weakest. Natural selection. Who will it be? What beasts linger along the edges, watching and not bothering with us? Thankfully we don’t taste good.

Courtesy of Steve's Gardening Services, a Native Hawaiian plant for participating in the whole series.
Courtesy of Steve’s Gardening Service, a Native Hawaiian plant, Pohinahina, for participating in the whole series.

A few weeks ago when I was in the Chun’s Reef to Waimea Bay swim and that flutter occurred right beneath me, I was frightened. My friend Barb asked me if it made me ink! Damn near, LOL! I looked up and I was so far from other swimmers. For this last swim I managed to stay inside to avoid much of the current and I kept other swimmers in my sight. It’s kind of trippy when you do these swims. You’re around people and then all of a sudden you’re not. You’re in each other’s way and then the gaps grow.

I expected this last and longest swim to keep me in the water for about two hours. I started off at a good pace and I wondered if I could keep that up for two hours. My coaches at The Oahu Club have really helped me get better with my stroke technique. My head is face down so my legs stay on the surface, I no longer stroke with my hand sliding forward before going down, my elbows peak at the right point to help me conserve energy. My goggles were a little foggy. I could keep track of the buoys this time (I think there were five or six), and I tried to pay attention to where the church tower was. When I got to Waimea Bay with several other swimmers, a water patrol guy pointed us toward the beach. I couldn’t believe it! I was almost done and that church tower didn’t stay in my face for 45 minutes like it did last year!

I poured it on and managed to get out of the water, up the steep sandy beach without falling, and across the timing mat in 01:32:14:4, about 27 minutes faster than last year! Yay! No pics of me coming out of the ocean EVER. OMG those are the worst pictures of anyone! Mercy!!!

The Vertra microfiber towel is thin enough to wear as a scarf! Mahalo, Rae!
The Vertra microfiber towel is thin enough to wear as a scarf! Mahalo, Rae!

One of the really fun things about these swims is that I volunteer to help with the check in with the Waikiki Swim Club, which I joined this year. Talk about a lovely group of people! I don’t know if it’s swimmers in general or ocean swimmers in particular, but these events have a very sweet and friendly vibe about them. WAIT. There is that one part where all that friendliness goes down the tubes: The START, which is about a minute of mosh pit, mash, slash, and splash of limbs and claws. No matter how great I feel at the end of these swims, the beginnings give me anxiety! It’s not like I know I could win, I just want to not finish last! I don’t expect a trophy, but I do like to get back to shore before the Tropilicious ice cream, Jamba Juice, Waialua coffee and chocolates, and North Shore Soap Factory liquid soaps run out! Especially the mint one! And for the grand finale, Steve’s Gardening Service presented each swimmer who participated in all four swims with a Native Hawaiian Plant. I’m still deciding where to put our new Pohinahina!

Speaking of prizes, while I was helping with the check-in, Rae of the Surf and Sea Swim Series let me know that I won a Vertra Elemental Resistance sunscreen gift pack! There was some fun and banter on the S&SSS Facebook page and I was one of three people selected! Scored a great microfiber towel and SPF28 face stick sunblock with surfer Mick Fanning pictured on the box. Mahalo, Rae and Vertra!

And of course, how would any of us get to do these events if it weren’t for Chris Gardner? You can tell he works hard on these events, probably working on sponsorships a year in advance! He’s gotta keep the fishermen happy, the lua company in line, the buses running on time, all the while talking on his PA system, blowing the horn at the start, coordinating results from Timeline Hawaii before announcing winners and giving out trophies. A weekend without Chris is kind of a drag! It was especially touching that Chris gave out awards in honor of Mark Foo and Ronnie Burns, two of his dear surfer friends who died too soon. I remember Mark and Ronnie. Those guys surfed fearlessly.

There’s a lot to think about when you’re swimming in the open ocean. You count your blessings. You reflect with gratitude. Swimming is such a gift.

Author: lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer is my new opponent. Writer, super sub teacher, triathlete, awesome cook, ocean girl with head-to-toe sun protection.

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