In July 2016, A Long Swim will be headed to Hawaii to swim between the islands of Molokai and Oahu. Most of us refer to it as the Molokai Channel, but in native Hawaiian, it is called the Ka’iwi Channel (pronounced “kah-EE-vee”) and translates to the “Channel of Bones.”
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The swim itself is 27 miles – perhaps more because of the currents – and starts on the west end of Molokai and ends on the east end of Oahu. Because the Hawaiian Islands are really the tops of an underwater mountain range, the water is quite deep (2,300 feet) and there is no protection from other land masses; this swim is really in the open-ocean. As a result, the Channel is known for swells of up to 15 feet. Steady trade winds blow through the Islands, so the swells are usually topped with choppy waves. The water temperature will be considerably more accommodating than it has been for our other swims, and is expected to be in the 75 – 78 range.
The Ka’iwi Channel is also known for its wildlife, and we’re at the stage where we’re excited to see whales and dolphins but are learning about how to deal with sharks and jellyfish. The warm water of the Ka’iwi Channel will make it a different ecosystem than A Long Swim has encountered before, so we will report back as we become educated.
With those challenges, perhaps it is no surprise that the Ka’iwi Channel has only been successfully swum by 35 solo swimmers. That’s one of the reasons that it is not as well-known (or as well-publicized) as, say, the English Channel, which has been successfully completed by some 1,300 swimmers. To keep it all in perspective, about 5,000 mountaineers have summited Mt. Everest.
Every marathon swim is different; having folks with local knowledge is critically important to a successful team, and nowhere is that more apparent than on the Ka’iwi Channel swim. A Long Swim will be in the very experienced and capable hands of Jeff Kozlovich and Mike Twigg-Smith who have escorted more than one-half of the successful swimmers across the Channel. From Mike, we have confirmed that our swimming “window” is July 24 – 30, so (just like the English Channel) we will be on site and ready to go at any point during that time when our captains tell us the conditions are ideal to go. In addition to weather, optimal conditions will include a minimum of tidal movement during the swim itself, so the fact that the full moon will have been the week earlier should help. We are targeting the Ka’iwi Channel swim to take 17 – 18 hours, so starting in the late afternoon or early evening of one day should maximize the daylight window for the following day. We are planning to broadcast the swim live if and when we have Internet connectivity.
Getting organized for the Ka’iwi Channel swim has reminded us of how much fun it is to “get the band back together” and, with all of the swims we have under our collective belt, the A Long Swim team is as experienced as any team in the world:
· Mike Twigg-Smith will be the escort boat pilot, and Jeff Kozlovich will be one of the kayakers.
· Longtime teammate, training partner and A Long Swim MVP Don Macdonald will be the other kayaker.
· The onboard crew will include Project Manager Meghan O’Doherty, who has been with us for every major swim we’ve accomplished.
· Susan will fulfill her role as A Long Swim CEO, official photographer and communications director.
· The “utility infielders” of this swim will also have other experienced marathon swim teammates, including some combination of Gordy McConnell, Mack McConnell and Ashley McConnell, who will be responsible for everything from feedings, stroke counting, problem solving, logbook-keeping and wildlife avoidance.
During a swim like this, everyone is engaged all of the time, and we are limited to the size of the crew by the size of the 31-foot escort boat. It is exhausting duty; being a crewmember during a marathon swim is as physically and mentally taxing as it is to be the swimmer.
As with our other marathon swims, one of the big motivations behind A Long Swim is the ability to raise contributions for ALS research, and it even took its name from the ALS acronym. To date, A Long Swim has raised more than $320,000 for ALS research, which makes it one of the top open water swims for charity in history. It is a very rewarding time to be funding ALS research, as the pace of discovery is accelerating all the time.
Since our last big swim, the circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York City in 2014, A Long Swim was granted status by the IRS as a 501(c)3 charity. To celebrate, we even changed the address of our website, to www.ALongSwim.org. The motivation for that was simple; if A Long Swim has taught us nothing else, it is that teamwork is indispensable for achieving our goals. Finding a cure for ALS works the same way, and teamwork and collaborative research will lead to one breakthrough after another. President Truman’s words, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” can apply to most situations, with marathon swimming and ALS research just being among them. Given our absolute dedication to teamwork, funds raised by A Long Swim will be directed to collaborative ALS research.
A Long Swim is a close partner with the Les Turner ALS Foundation, which will continue. The Foundation keeps very close contact with ALS researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, as well as with ALS research being completed around the world. A Long Swim will coordinate with the Foundation to assure that the effect of every ALS research dollar is maximized.
Donations to A Long Swim are welcome, and can be made through this new website, www.ALongSwim.org, or by mail to:
A Long Swim
110 East Main Street
Barrington, Illinois 60010
Corporate sponsors are encouraged for this highly publicized swim, about which we will be eager to make announcements as they finalize.
See you at the pool. I will report back.