Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Swimming The Molokai Channel

This post is in response to the numerous requests I get from those who want to swim from Molokai to Oahu.  For those of you who don't understand why someone would want to swim 27 miles of rough open water, well, first you're at the wrong blog, but even for those who are used to extreme adventures, you might need a bit of background.
Open Water Swimming is huge around the world and the extreme end of that sport is where swimmers with swim suit and goggles only swim across ocean channels. Obviously the English Channel comes to mind and also the Catalina channel in Southern California. Keo Nakama was the first to swim the Kaiwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu in 1961 and in the next 40 years only 6 more followed his lead. This channel is windy, wild and even on a rare "calm day", rough.
Now, this channel is part of  "The Oceans Seven,"  the marathon  swimming  equilivant of  mountain climbing's Seven Summits.The "Seven" referred to  are the Irish Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar. No one has completed all these swims yet but I'm betting on Penny Palfrey, who has only the Irish channel to go.
So now, as part of the "Oceans Seven," Molokai is much more popular.
I first got involved in this kind of swimming when friend Bill Goding asked me along on his  Molokai swimming adventure and since then have helped many people accomplish their dream of a channel crossing.
Here are some things to know about a Kaiwi Channel Crossing. Best option is to stay on Oahu and wait for the right weather.  For most people, light Easterly winds are best. South East is good also. North East winds are OK as well, but the wind will be at your back quarter. Best to get it behind you, pushing you to Oahu. Swimming in windy conditions isn't for everyone.  Obviously any really light winds are good but light winds around here always have "variable" attached. Winds that are constantly shifting make for a very confused sea and so aren't the best. But  . . . you could wait a year for the perfect day. Talk with people who know the weather. There are options for good weather windows all year but generally the weather around here is rough and you really do have to pick the right day.

Most swimmers start from Molokai and swim to Oahu. Only Harry Huffaker and Forrest Nelson have done it the other way. If you want to try it that way I advise you doing it the "easy" way first and start from Molokai.
The Southern Point (La'au Point) is where most people like to start.  It is, however, very rough and rocky. I think the North West Point on Molokai is a really great place to start for someone wants to go for the record for speed, it is the closest and you'll have a better chance of winds at your back, but . .  it is remote, rocky and hard to get to. A start from the northern point would take a lot of planning and a much closer watch on all the variables like wind, swell, currents and tide.
There is a long sandy beach on the west side of Molokai. It is a mile or two (depending on where you start) farther but a much easier place to start. This swim is not easy logistically no matter where you start.
After a 27 mile swim you have about 100 yards at Sandy Beach to come ashore. To much north or south will put you on some jagged rocks. Landing on these rocks in daylight is dangerous. Trying to get ashore on the rocks at night will hurt - badly.
 Bill and I are glad to answer any further questions.
 Bill Goding prepared the following chart for me. 
Hope this helps and feel free to ask questions.

The un official list

1 Keo Nakama 15:30 1961 (Sep)
2 Harry Huffaker 13:35 1967 (Sep)
3 Harry Huffaker  (Oahu to Molokai) 16:15 1972 (Sep)
4 Jonathan Ezer 13:04 1974 (Aug)
5 Ian Emberson 16:50 1979 (May)
6 Mike Miller 16:50 1979 (May)
7 Robin Isayama 15:21 1994 (Sep)
8 Forrest Nelson  (Oahu to Molokai) 16:36 2006 (Mar)
9 Bill Goding 15:55 2006 (Sep)
10 Forrest Nelson 15:55 2006 (Sep)
11 Mike Spaulding 15:15 2007 (Sep)
12 Kelly Gleason 15:15 2007 (Sep)
13 Linda Kaiser 15:00 2007 (Sep)
14 Mackenzie Miller 14:52 2009 (Sep)
15 Chris Palfrey 12:53 2010 (Apr)
16 Penny Palfrey 11:40 2011 (Mar)
17 Samantha Simon 13:41 2011 (Jul)
18 Tina Neill 17:17 2011 (Sep)
19 Forrest Nelson 17:17 2011 (Sep)
20 Darren Miller 12:12 2011 (Oct)
21 Michelle Macy 14:12 2011 (Oct)
22 Anna-Carin Nordin 18:22 2011 (Oct)
23 Penny Palfrey 12:07 2011 (Nov)
24 Steven Redmond 22:30 2012 (Feb)

1 comment:

Pat Bailey said...

You might want to revise your bet about who does the seven first. Stephen Redmond is now more likely to complete the series.