Double The Distance, Twice As Nice

Double The Distance, Twice As Nice

The Waikiki Roughwater Swim is one of the worlds iconic open water swims. It starts at the base of Diamond Head, possibly the world’s most photographed volcano and ends at the other end of Waikiki Bay. Swimmers can see marine life as they swim in clear, warm royal blue waters of Hawaii.

For years, Jim Anderson organized the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. Back in the 1970’s, the open water swimming season in Hawaii stretched from April to September, but no further. “The season started with a few biathlon events in April and May,” recalls Anderson who was recently inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. “These races were followed by some summer activities and ended with the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Labor Day. There was no incentive to keep working out and people drifted off with other social activities until there was another event in April.”

But Anderson created an incentive to extend the season…and then some.

He created the Possibly Annual Hawaiian Christmas Looong Distance Invitational Rough-H2O Swim. “The event help make open water swimming in Hawaii a year-round activity.” First held in 1981 and locally known as the Double Roughwater, Anderson explains the title and distance. “The race has been held every year since 1981, but one (2007). Thus, living up to its name as Possibly Annual. At the time, the 7 km distance was considered a long distance event and it fit nicely within the boundaries of the Waikiki Bay. Had the Olympic 10K open water movement been active at that time, the distance most likely would have been longer. While this is listed as a 7 km course that is only for the exceptional swimmer who swims in a straight line. Real world distance can be substantially greater than 7 km depending upon conditions and navigational ability. Navigation is a skill that plays an important role in this race.”

But what most participants find out about the out-and-back Double Roughwater course is that if one way is easy, the other way is not. Swimmers just don’t know which way the currents will flow with half the course with the current and the other half against.

We stress that when one swims in this event you are not close to shore and that you are truly communing with Mother Nature who can be very unforgiving. It is not for the casual swimmer. Safety is a major concern such that each swimmer is required to have an escort on a surfboard, kayak or other similar water craft. We do extend a courtesy to swimmers who come from out of state and will supply an escort, if needed.”

Anderson has maintained the invitational aspect of the event – and explains why it remains an essential element of the 7 km rough water swim. “The Invitational nature of the event is not to limit it to superstars, but to gain an understanding of the swimmer’s ability. This event is not for the weekend swimmer. Our objective is to have a good time, meet some new people and get in fun workout. Having to account for or rescue overextended swimmers or escorts is not what we consider a good time. Those who are not in good shape will wish that they were. There is a cutoff of four hours for one to be an official finisher.”

For more information on the December 15th event in Honolulu, visit

Winners and their ages along with the average age and time of the participants over the last 30 years include:

1981: Kaili Chun (19) 1:38:36 [average age: 32.6, average time: 2:24:57]
1982: Kaili Chun (20) 1:40:15 [average age: 30.9, average time: 2:15:32]
1983: Richard Wells (22) 1:25:19 [average age: 34.5, average time: 2:09:14]
1984: Richard Wells (23) 1:29:14 [average age: 35.2, average time: 2:25:36]
1985: Rick Heltzel (28) 1:35:11 [average age: 36.4, average time: 2:14:27]
1986: Chris Moore (23) 1:29:45 [average age: 35.9, average time: 2:13:38]
1987: Rick Heltzel (30) 1:39:00 [average age: 34.6, average time: 2:26:28]
1988: Dean Walter (19) 1:43:40 [average age: 35.6, average time: 2:23:41]
1989: Rick Heltzel (32) 1:26:55 [average age: 35.8, average time: 2:01:49]
1990: Greg Streppel (22) 1:24:44 [average age: 36.4, average time: 2:11:01]
1991: Dale Shimato (25) 1:41:00 [average age: 37.2, average time: 2:20:35]
1991: Rick Heltzel (34) 2:07:44 (10 km USA Swimming National Championships)
1992: Davin Bray (20) 1:38:20 [average age: 37.3, average time: 2:19:09]
1992: Jeff Pearson (22) 2:05:50 (10 km USA Swimming National Championships)
1993: Sergio Chiarandini (25) 1:30:03 [average age: 35.3, average time: 2:16:54]
1994: Dan Veatch (29) 1:31:06 [average age: 37.9, average time: 2:07:11]
1995: Kari Lydersen (20) 1:37:25 [average age: 36.3, average time: 2:17:38]
1996: Paul Herbert (19) 1:52:15 [average age: 39.0, average time: 2:43:34]
1997: Rick Heltzel (40) 1:38:06 [average age: 43.5, average time: 2:11:52]
1998: John Flanagan (23) 1:41:12 [average age: 43.3, average time: 2:22:57]
1999: John Flanagan (24) 1:34:47 [average age: 38.5, average time: 2:10:58]
2000: John Flanagan (25) 1:32:49 [average age: 41.8, average time: 2:10:48]
2001: Bill Goding (48) 1:46:59 [average age: 40.1, average time: 2:22:15]
2002: Rick Heltzel (45) 1:37:36 [average age: 40.5, average time: 2:05:36]
2003: Rick Heltzel (46) 1:38:35 [average age: 43.7, average time: 2:13:06]
2004: Rick Heltzel (47) 1:37:42 [average age: 49.1, average time: 2:07:58]
2005: Rick Heltzel (48) 1:43:12 [average age: 42.4, average time: 2:30:38]
2006: Bill Goding (53) 1:44:13 [average age: 42.2, average time: 2:20:46]
2006: John Flanagan (32) 1:31:24 (USA Swimming 10 km Olympic Trials qualifying event)
2007: no event held
2008: Rick Heltzel (51) 1:36:58 [average age: 46.3, average time: 2:10:08]
2009: Rick Heltzel (52) 1:37:36 [average age: 48.0, average time: 2:00:40]
2010: Eric Nilsson (23) 1:34:54 [average age: 44.4, average time: 2:18:49]
2011: Rick Heltzel (54) 1:45:48 [average age: 45.5, average time: 2:30:38]
2012: Eric Nilsson (25) 1:32:54 [average age: 47.6, average time: 1:55:36]
2013: Ryan Saunders (21) 1:35:41 [average age: 44.05, average time: 2:09:57]

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