Waikiki Roughwater Swim 2013: Hard.

A tagged monk seal woke up to a few thousand people on the beach for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.
A tagged monk seal woke up to a crowd on the beach for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

Labor Day 2013 at Kaimana Beach was calm. The ocean appeared gentle, no waves barrelled up against the shore, no white caps popped on the horizon. It was deceptive. I should have taken a cue from the monk seal we discovered snoozing above the shoreline at about 7:30 a.m. When it realized there were about 2,000 people on the beach, half of whom were getting ready to swim 2.34 miles, the seal slid into the drink and away from the cameras and commotion. Pretty sure I saw the seal again as I was swimming from the sixth to the seventh buoy on what felt like an amazing swim to nowhere. Heh.

Smooth as glass. How hard could it be? It was hard.
Smooth as glass. How hard could it be? It was hard.

Swimming the Waikiki Roughwater Swim is like giving birth. You train for months for this marathon ocean swim, it’s a huge pain in the ass, and when you finish you swear you are through. The End. Finis. But while you might take a few months to warm up to having another kid, the very next day you’re telling your loved ones how NEXT YEAR I’M GOING TO DO IT BETTER. Loved ones roll their eyes knowingly, because they knew already. I’m that swimmer. Find me again, probably in wave D, trying to bust my ass to surface at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in under two hours. A year older, 20 minutes faster? Could it happen? I have to believe it will.

Here’s my results via Garmin: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/369712023.

Me and the sign.
Me and the sign.

Looks like I went wide around the first buoy, wove in and out of buoys 2-9, and turned this 2.34-mile plan into a 2.75-mile swim. My husband calls me an overachiever. LOL. Like I said, it seemed flat, the trade winds blew briskly from east to west, and
it felt at first as though it would be a quick swim, much like the last North Shore Swim Series 2.4-mile swim from Pipeline to Waimea Bay, which I did in 01:32:52. I mean, why couldn’t I expect to finish this in less than two hours?!

But let’s talk about the differences between this swim and last year’s. This year I was always within sight of other swimmers. Last year I was alone a lot, surrounded by blue and wondering if I was being watched by big sharks. This year, I wondered the same thing, but most of the time I didn’t worry about it because I was amazed at all the fish I was seeing! It was amazing! Black, blue, yellow, parrot fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaa, brainy coral heads, turtles! Some swimmers saw a hammerhead, but I didn’t. We have plenty of those in Maunalua Bay here in Hawaii Kai, they’re harmless and pretty cool to look at. I got a really bad charlie horse cramp in my right leg as I was approaching the finish. It was so bad I had to stop and stick my foot up and out to give it a stretch. It was horrible! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone run, up the beach across the timing mat. But I did and it was AOK. I worked so hard in this swim. My arms felt like jelly for hours afterward.

While I was out there swimming my little 2.75-mile marathon, I thought of Diana Nyad, who was swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage and with a University of Hawaii scientist in her crew who is an expert on jellyfish. I’ve encountered my share of box jellyfish and manowar jellies, and I can appreciate that.

I also thought about small-kid time on swim team at Riverdel Swim Club in Riverside, N.J. Every summer, we’d be at the pool by 7:30 in the morning for swim team practice that went until 9 a.m. Then we’d stay all day until afternoon swim team practice at 4 p.m. After the big Tri-County meet, we’d spend a few weeks on Long Beach Island, working on our tans, riding the waves, beach combing, our hair bleached by the sun, our noses peeling.

Now I wear sunscreen. But I still have fun being an ocean girl. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother.