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Accomplished Swimmer turned Back by Strong Current

June 12, 2017

We are starting to gain some sort of understanding of how the wind and tides and currents effect these swims. We know (obviously) that the wind needs to be behind the swimmer. On a Molokai to Oahu swim that means a wind out of the Northeast, East or Southeast.  We also know that while possible, days with an extreme tide difference are trouble. I don't know what the scientific term is but there's just a lot of water sloshing around. Approaching Oahu during a dropping tide is sure to add  drama, too. Avoid it if you can.

There is a shallow shelf off the Southeast coast of Oahu that gives almost all swimmers an extra bit of anxiety.  Just when you think you're getting close - you start to slow down. Water drops off that shelf to the East and Southeast. The one or two miles before it you have to try extra hard to get up over it, 

That's the short version of what we know. Things go that way most of the time. Then, maybe 10 or 15% of the time, stuff happens and we just don't know why. 

A few years ago Boguslaw Ogrodnic from Poland was being pushed back and to the North by a strong current we never saw before and a few weeks ago Cae Tolman from Australia ran into the same one.  Hawaii is in the middle of a large and dynamic ocean and I really have no idea yet, why that current shows up occasionally. I'll keep you posted on my attempts to understand it.

Cae Tolman didn't finish that swim but was kind enough to respond to our 12 Questions anyway.

 

 

1) Other than completing the Oceans 7, why swim the Kaiwi channel? Why swim Channels? 

As I child I was always the last chosen for all sports; given a bat I was just as likely to hit someone else as hit a ball. Subsequently I found my comfort zone in the academic. In adulthood I discovered ocean swimming and over the last 6-7 years I have moved from a poor swimmer, unable to complete more than a few hundred metres to this.

I love the sense of achievement I derive from swimming, the inner peace and meditative state I achieve during marathon swims and the opportunity to test my limits. In our modern life we have no experience of our physical pain and psychological limits. "You can't tell how much you can do until you try to do something that is more"

 

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 flew to Molokai on the day of the swim, landing about 4-5 hours before the swim commenced. We took a cab to Kualap'uu (sorry if I've bastardised the spelling) for lunch prior to the beach. No issues at all with getting the crew to the boat. On reflection it would have been more relaxing to stay at the resort on the evening preceding the swim.

 

3.  What were the conditions like at the start? Can you describe your surroundings? What was the beach like? People on the beach? Surf?

Sunny, calm, light wind. A few people around the pool, a mother and child on the beach

 

4.  Could you see Oahu at the start? How did that feel?

i could see Oahu from the beach but not from the water. Knowing how far away it was I found it best not to focus on its visibility.

 

5.  What was your feeding schedule like? What did you eat/ drink? Did it stay down? Any issues with feedings? Technique?

My dietary support comes from a friend who is a channel swimmer and academic dietician. I feed every 40 minutes. A one hour swim where I weighed myself before an after suggested I needed to consume 400ml per feed to remain hydrated and I aimed to consume 200mg sodium every 2 hours, both in drinks and in additional salt tablets.

Of every 3 feeds, the first 2 were flat coke/dr Pepper, or kool aid with added maltodextrin to make up to 40g carbohydrates per feed.

I also had some 2 minute noodles and the occasional chocolate.

 

6.  Some swimmers experience seasickness. Did you? 

No. I have never. I occasionally vomit a little but not due to sea sickness

 

7.  Describe the conditions during your swim. Any particular challenges? Estimated wind speed? How did water temp feel?

The first 7 hours were great and I made good progress despite a light current. The current became the main challenge. It was strong and changed direction several times, eventually causing me to terminate my swim after 10hours with little/no progress.

The wind was very light throughout with a small 4 foot swell developing.

One of my major concerns before the swim had been the long night, but this was not a problem. The full moon gave. A lot of light and the dolphin and bioluminescence provided distraction.

 

8.  Did you see or feel any marine life? Did you or crew have any shark deterrent? Jelly stings?

we used a shark shield throughout the swim, which I would consider to be a standard safety measure.

I did see no sharks but had an amusing and memorable dolphin encounter.

I saw no jellies, but had frequent stings over my body (every 20-30 minutes). No worse than I am used to from Sydney.

 

9.  Describe the last quarter of your swim and the finish. Where did you finish?

the last quarter... didn't really happen

 

10.  Who did you bring with you to help support your swim?   How did the ones who went on the boat do? 

Nicky is my trusted supporter and experienced and respected supporter.

She experienced a great deal of nausea and vomiting from the diesel fumes on the boat.

Andy has little or no experience and conducted himself under Nicky' guidance. He also experienced nausea.

I cannot overstate the value of an experienced handler who knows the swimmer intimately.

 

11. Anything you would do differently? Anything not go well?

jeff we have discussed the need for accurate communication from skipper to paddlers about communication etc. in the briefing you could consider a list of questions to ask the swimmer and team that is then provided to the paddlers

 

12. Favorite memories from this experience?

my dolphin encounter will be with me always. While I have seen many while swimming, never so close or personal.

The colour of the ocean (the deep pure blue) is indescribable and truly beautiful. I loved the nighttime component.

 

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