Starting in 2017 the swimmers who aren't shy about sharing will all answer these same questions. First up in 2017 - Abhejali Bernardova. She successfully swam Kaiwi in March of this year in a time of 21:52.
1. Other than completing the Oceans 7, why swim the Kaiwi channel? Why swim Channels?
Ocean’s 7 Challenge came up just around the time I did my English Channel swim. I did not really plan to do any other swims, in fact even my English Channel swim was kind of a coincidence, after being a part of a last minute relay 2 years before that. I think once you are in the English Channel, you become hooked. After that I saw there was a swim around Manhattan, which really inspired me. I have been going to NY for many years to visit my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and I did a few New York City marathons there, and even a 6-day race. So it felt like a nice opportunity. Somehow after that other swims presented themselves before me and I did one swim a year. Even when there was a year with no swims planned on my part, I ended up being a part of another English Channel relay. So I thought about the Ocean’s Seven at that time and started to plan the swims. I am not sure I would do the Kaiwi Channel swim if it was not part of the Ocean’s Seven – there are so many places and channels you can swim, and this one is on the other side of the world for me. But I loved Hawaii, we all loved Hawaii, and I was very happy to go. In Czech language there is a saying that goes: It was Hawaii… Meaning that it was very easy-going, piece of cake, clear sailing. It is a synonym for holiday, nice time. And we really loved it. Though the swim was not Hawaii
Long distance swimming is a kind of meditation for me, a way to know myself better. I am a member of Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, and a motto of our team is self-transcendence. We can do much more than we think, usually it is our mind that is limiting us in many different ways. I find that when I get out of my comfort zone, I learn more, I can see where my strengths are and where my weaknesses are and then I can work on them.
2. We start these swims on Molokai. How did you get there from Oahu? How did you get to the beach where swim starts? Any issues getting crew to the boat?
We went by boat because the surf was quite big and the pilot did not want all of us to have to go through the waves, with our stuff. The ride was really bumpy so I understand why it is advisable to fly. Also you see how far it is, which might be quite overwhelming for the mind. I watched for a bit and then tried to lie down on the benches and relax. We saw dolphins near the harbour, and then whales, which was very nice. It gave us a nice feeling of welcome and safety.
3. What were the conditions like at the start? Can you describe your surroundings? What was the beach like? People on the beach? Surf?
The surf was quite big, I even saw a warning on a website for west coast of Molokai for that day, danger for swimmers. I come from a landlocked country so not many opportunities to swim through the waves. We wanted to practise on Sandy beach but our swim was very soon after arrival so did not have time for that. I had one of my helpers, who comes from New Zealand, to swim with me to the beach and then out again, it was very good to have her by my side. There were kids on the beach, playing with the splashing waves, and some adults too I think, but I did not notice much, I was concentrating on the task ahead which was to get through the surf and swim
4. Could you see Oahu at the start? How did that feel?
We could not see Oahu at the start, neither we could see Molokai on the later days when we went to the Sandy beach and the lighthouse. I did not mind not seeing Oahu at the start, you anyway have to swim one stroke at a time and it is good not to think about how far you have to swim.
5. What was your feeding schedule like? What did you eat/ drink? Did it stay down? Any issues with feedings? Technique?
I feed every 30 minutes, they throw me a bottle or two – either just a drink, or every other feed liquid food as well. Usually it is rice porridge or some treats like crystallised ginger, jelly babies. I drink different teas or squash with maltodextrin mixed in for energy. I was notified 5 minutes before the feed by the kayaker and then the boat stopped and I swam to it to get my feed. I could not keep my feeds down at night.
6. Some swimmers experience seasickness. Did you?
I used to experience seasickness on earlier swims but now have a good pill that usually works very well. However here when the night came I was a bit disoriented by the lights on the kayak, especially the head lamp and the lamp at the front of the kayak, which were much brighter than the light sticks. So it was difficult for me to be able to tell the direction of the kayak and it was making me dizzy. I even asked for the head lamp to be turned off but I guess it was needed for the big boat to see us. I have not realised this was what was making me sick, only after the sun came out and I was instantly feeling ok and could eat and drink right away. If I knew I could have used my tinted goggles I realised.
7. Describe the conditions during your swim. Any particular challenges? Estimated wind speed? How did water temp feel?
Conditions were nice at the start, wind speed was 1-2 Bft. I think it was also sheltered by the coast to the north of the swim start. When the night came the swells became big and wind picked up as well. By that time I was already feeling sick so the waves were not my main issue. We also had a current that was pushing us north after the start and we went quite out of the way. I think the wind speed could be 3 Bft later on. At one point during the night I felt really, really weak because I was dehydrated after not eating and drinking for such a long time, and I was also tired and still jet-lagged. Afterwards my team told me I looked really white at that time. Water temperature was fine, I would guess around 22°C, but at night I felt cold a little, because of dehydration and fatigue. When sun came out and I could eat I was fine with the temperature.
We also had a current (or tide) near Oahu, when it took me 9 hours to swim 9 miles, which would normally take me 5 hours to swim. I guess it was because I was much slower at night so the timing near Oahu was a bit off with the tide was going north. I was swimming really hard since sunrise when I could finally eat again, but still our speed was only 1 mile per hour. Then for the last mile the current was even stronger, I could see the bottom and could see how we were hardly moving at all, despite my full effort. I was also told if we do not make it in an hour the tide will change, so it was quite challenging. The pilot jumped in the water and swam with me through the waves to Sandy beach, making sure I was ok, which was very nice of him.
8. Did you see or feel any marine life? Did you or crew have any shark deterrent? Jelly stings?
On the way to Molokai we saw spinner dolphins and whales, the crew saw more whales during the swim and I could hear the dolphins at night. We had the e-shark deterrent attached to the kayak, it was the longer surfing version, which the crew changed and charged every 4 hours. I would like to thank Wilson Vinano, the CEO of the E-shark force, for lending us these devices. He was very nice and very accommodating when we needed the devices soon because our swim was so early. Other than dolphins and whales I met one nasty jelly fish in the morning, I caught one of its tentacles in my stroke so got stings on my arms, face and neck and groin. They are still very much visible even after a month.
9. Describe the last quarter of your swim and the finish. Where did you finish?
I finished on Sandy beach. As I already mentioned earlier, I was swimming only 1 mile per hour for the last 9 miles because of the current. It took a lot of patience but as long as I knew we were making progress, I tried to swim as hard as possible and keep feedings fast. Waves at the finish were smaller than at the start, which I was very grateful for. But it was nice to have someone swim in with me to make sure I was ok. The life guard at the beach announced that I swam from Molokai so we got a nice applause from the people on the beach. Mike the pilot brought my Czech flag with him to the beach, unfortunately our waterproof camera stopped being waterproof so we could not take any photos.
10. Who did you bring with you to help support your swim? How did the ones who went on the boat do?
I had 3 of my friends from Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team with me, with the 4th arriving the day we finished the swim I had Jayalata from Czech Republic, she has been on most of my swims and knows me really well. To have her on the team means all will go well. The other thing is she was the only Czech speaking person on board, and it is easier for me to speak Czech on these long swims. The other team members were Harita from New Zealand and Rupasi from Seattle. Harita kayaked part of it and even though the other guys were great, it was very nice to have her next to me, especially because the big boat was always ahead of us and came close only for the feedings. The 4th member was Jayasalini from Russia. She unfortunately had to miss the swim because by the time we knew we were swimming she would have to be on a plane so it was not possible for her to make it on time. But we still did some Peace Run events after the swim – visiting some schools and running with the peace torch around beautiful Oahu and Kauai, so it was great that she came. You can see photos from that on peacerun.org
11. Anything you would do differently? Anything not go well?
I would try to do something about the lights on the kayak which were making me sick.
12. Favourite memories from this experience?
We had many friends around the world praying for us, which helped so much, especially during the night when I was very weak and tired. It was definitely my longest swim and the hardest one as well, but I would never choose not to do it, even if I knew how hard it would be. I loved the vastness of the ocean, its power, the beautiful colour of the water, the people who helped me make the swim possible and successful. It is a great team work, even though I get all the glory In the words of my spiritual teacher and founder of our marathon team, Sri Chinmoy:
All your insurmountable obstacles.
You are bound to succeed!
Thanks so much!