Hawaiian Channel Swimming, A View By Dr. Steven Minaglia

Hawaiian Channel Swimming, A View By Dr. Steven Minaglia

Dr. Steven Minaglia, one of the most prolific channel swimmers in Hawaii, describes the current situation in his state, “Hawaiian channel swimming has been heating up during the pandemic. There has been a lot of time to train and since travel outside of Hawaii has been limited, many ocean swimmers have been training much more here at home. With nine channels between the major islands in the state of Hawaii, no person has crossed all nine channels.

But both Linda Kaiser and Mike Spalding have crossed a total of eight channels with their sole exception being the 115.8 km Kaieiewaho Channel that separates Oahu and Kauai. People have attempted solo swims of this channel and people (including both Kaiser and Spalding) have completed relay swims. For the most part, this channel represents a heroic accomplishment; one that is out of the range of the average channel swimmer.”

Top 3 Number of Hawaiian Channel Crossings Completed
1. Bill Goding (28)
2. Steven Minaglia (18)
3. Stefan Reinke (12)

Kaiwi (Molokai to Oahu) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Forrest Nelson (3)
2. Harry Huffaker (2)
3. Beth French (2)

Auau (Lanai to Maui) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Bill Goding (22)
2. Steven Minaglia (6)
3. Hudson Slay (6)

Kalohi (Lanai to Molokai) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Carl Kawauchi (4)
2. Steven Minaglia (4)
3. Stefan Reinke (3)

Alalakeiki (Kahoolawe to Maui) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Carl Kawauchi (2)
2. Alton Motobu (2)
3. Numerous swimmers with one crossing

Pailolo (Maui to Molokai) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Steven Minaglia (6)
2. Carl Kawauchi (4)
3. Numerous swimmers with two crossings

Alenuihaha (Hawaii to Maui) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Mike Spalding (1)
2. Linda Kaiser (1)
3. Penny Palfrey (1)
4. Harry Huffaker (1)

Kaulakahi (Kauai to Niihau) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Bill Goding (2)
2. Numerous swimmers with two crossings

Alenuihaha (Hawaii to Maui) Channel Crossings Completed
1. Quinn Carver (1)
2. Bill Goding (1)
3. Linda Kaiser (1)
3. Laurie Foster (1)
5. Mike Spalding (1)

Kaieiewaho (Oahu to Kauai) Channel Crossings Completed
No solo completions

Dr. Minaglia continues, “For many years now, swimming between Kahoolawe and Lanai (Kealaikahiki Channel) and between Maui and Kahoolawe (Alalakeiki Channel) has been strictly prohibited. Restrictions prohibit boaters from getting close to the island and swimmers from touching land.”

Davianna Pomaika’i McGregor, PhD, Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa explains, “Below are the purposes of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve under state law.  Fundraising is considered a commercial use. Also, in the past, requests to swim from Kahoʻolawe across the channel have been denied by the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission.”

[§ 6K-3] Reservation of uses.
 (a) The Kahoolawe island reserve shall be used solely and exclusively for the following purposes:
(1) Preservation and practice of all rights customarily and traditionally exercised by native Hawaiians for cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes;
(2) Preservation and protection of its archaeological, historical, and environmental resources;
(3) Rehabilitation, revegetation, habitat restoration, and preservation; and
(4) Education.
(b) The island shall be reserved in perpetuity for the uses enumerated in subsection (a). Commercial uses shall be strictly prohibited. [L 1993, c 340, pt of §2].”

Ultimately, this leaves swimmers with six choices unless they want to tackle the Kaieiewaho Channel. There is another way for swimmers to potentially tally up Hawaiian Channel swims. After extensive research, I propose the following for consideration:

1. Swim from Maui around Molokini and back to Maui. This swim is approximately the same distance as the 11.2 km Alalakeiki Channel.

2. Swim from Molokini to Lanai. This 38.6 km swim exceeds the Kealaikahiki Channel by 11 kilometers.

Molokini Shoal off the coast of Maui

A note about Molokini. The Molokini Shoal is a crescent shaped islet located in the Alalakeiki Channel about 3 miles off Maui’s southern coast. For more information pertaining to access of the islet, visit here.

Swimming around Molokini does not appear problematic. Swimming from Molokini to Lanai is problematic in the sense that there are no sandy beaches on Molokini and entry onto the islet is prohibited. This being said, swimmers are capable of touching the island to start the swim and escort boats can accompany them in Subzone B. Anyone considering these swims should check with local authorities first. As of this writing, there are no local regulations in place to certify either of these swims…but the spirit of channel swimming continues.

Courtesy of Steven Minaglia, MD, MBA, FACS, FACOG, an Associate Professor in the Division of Urogynecology & Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology & Women’s Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, and the Associate Editor of the Journal of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery, The Official Journal of the American Urogynecologic Society.

Copyright © 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones