it's that time of year again, when after a winter of indoor swimming
and you stink of chlorine, some of you may actually be thinking of
tackling, dare I say it, an open-water race.
In previous spring publications I have
discussed some of the differences between pool and open-water
competition. Rather than repeating myself [you can check a back
issue for that info], I thought I would focus on a single event that
is within the scope of any moderately skilled swimmer, while also
offering a real challenge for the more seasoned athlete.
There is an aquatic event that has
been taking place for twenty plus years over the Labour Day weekend
and attracts people from all around the globe. Swimmers from
Australia, Great Britain, Japan, the US and Europe come together on
one of the most beautiful islands on the planet to strut their
The place is Maui and the race is
across the Maui Channel, from the island of Lanai to Ka'anapali
beach [on the west coast of Maui]. The distance is approximately ten
miles in eighty degree waters, with an air temperature about the
What makes this event so cool though
is that you can do it as a solo event [you must qualify as there is
a limited field], or, as a six- person relay team. The vast majority
of the four hundred plus swimmers are there as relay participants
and get to rub shoulders with current and ex Olympians [e.g. Amanda
Beard competed on a team in 2003], while enjoying a weekend of fun,
sun and yes, a good amount of partying after the event.
Most swimmers rent a boat and crew
locally and the race director can usually team you up with someone
if given sufficient notice. You will also have to arrange airfare
and accommodations and I would strongly suggest you take advantage
of the special rates offered to competitors at The Ka'anapali Beach
Hotel, which is literally the finish line of the event.
Maui is of course a very popular
destination point for Canadians seeking a break from our sometimes
cold and miserable winters. If you decide to compete in this event
though, you will get a different sense of the island and its people.
Everyone is treated very warmly and you leave [at least we do]
feeling a sentiment of having been part of a very different
There are some things to be aware of
if you decide to participate.
In the solo event you should be able
to swim ten miles in around four hours in good conditions, which
means that this is only a race for strong and experienced ocean
swimmers. Also, whether doing the solo or relay, make sure you bring
plenty of sunscreen. The weather can be merciless to an exposed,
pink skinned Canadian and you may suffer significant burns [trust
me, I've been there!].
My wife Debbie and I have done two
solo races [2000 and 2003] and one thing we learned is that Mother
Nature can throw some significant curves, so you want to make sure
you are fully aware of tide and current conditions on the day of the
race [i.e. don't rely on your captain to have all the answers].
There are a myriad of sea creatures
out there, some potentially more dangerous than others. Getting
stung by jellyfish is very common but no big deal. Just take a
couple of anti-histamine tablets before you start out and the pain
will be minimal. Please remember that this is a sanctioned swimming
race, so no wet suits are permitted as body armor. I would also
strongly discourage the use of any grease, as hyperthermia would
then become an issue. Fast suits are allowed.
Sharks are not uncommon sightings in
these waters [it is after all their home, not ours], and while two
rather large Tiger Sharks were seen lurking around swimmers in last
years' race, there have been no attacks in the history of this
exciting event [go on╔.live a little on the wild side!].
In closing, while this is not a race
for the pool-only conditioned athlete, it does offer a unique and
satisfying way for you to ply your trade as a swimmer.
And if you need a little emotional
push, just remember a quote from a poem written by The Swahili
Warriors of East Africa that was penned about two thousand years
It reads: "Life has meaning only in
the struggle╔victory and defeat are in the hands of the Gods╔.so,
let us celebrate the struggle!".
Some things never change.
About the author: Shane Collins
is a sport and fitness consultant and a marathon swimmer. He has
competed in long distance ocean swimming races around the world and
is the only athlete from BC to have successfully swum across The
English Channel in its 128 year history. He can be reached at