The Immensity, The Courage Of Penny Palfrey

The Immensity, The Courage Of Penny Palfrey

The Immensity, The Courage Of Penny Palfrey

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We flew into Hawaii to cover Penny Palfrey‘s 72-mile (116 km) ocean marathon swim from the west coast of Oahu to Kauai.

Scanning down upon the immense Kaieiewaho Channel between Oahu and Kauai, we were awed by the size of the channel from the airplane. How a human even imagines a crossing is way beyond us.

The Kaieiewaho Channel is nearly four times the length of the English Channel where Palfrey will be passing over depths at least 3,000 meters and encountering ocean swells that can only be generated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With good reason, Palfrey remains stoic and confident in herself. “I have trained for this and am ready. One of the reporters asked me why I failed in my earlier attempt. I didn’t fail [in April]. I swam 58 km in a little over 12 hours and just hit too many jellyfish. I knew when to call it because you always have to know when you have gone too far. [The jellyfish stings] hurt so much. I was even feeling jolts of shock days afterwards and I still have scars. I was shocked by an electric current when I was 15 and this was so much worse.”

As she sat arranging her equipment and giving final instructions to her crew, it was humbling to hear her courage and perspective as she discussed possible emergencies. “I know there is marine life out there. I have seen two Great White Sharks in my life. One passed right under me. It was so big. But you have to remain focused. I know you will do the right thing [in an emergency], but even if I slow down or my stroke count falls, then me get through it. It might take me a few minutes or much longer, but I will continue. Just be patient with me. This is not a race and when I get to the other side, let me relax for a few minutes.”


We asked Mike Miller, a Triple Crown swimmer who has also done the 26-mile Molokai Channel, to put Palfrey’s attempt in perspective. “You simply can’t [put it into perspective]. You can put swims in perspective that have been done before. But you just can’t with the Kaieiewaho Channel.”

The plans are to start around 11 am Honolulu time on Tuesday. “One problem may be finding a safe place to take off from on Oahu. We’ll be patient and find a place that is a safe jump-off point, but we are all ready to go.”

Rick Shema, a knowledgeable meteorologist and oceanographer, predicted that after an initial calm period, winds will increase to the 15-knot range with rain showers coming later as an unsettled weather pattern passes over the channel.

Fans can follow Palfrey’s progress by sending a text (SWIM) to 32862 or via Twitter, although in mid-channel all Internet communications will be lost.

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Steven Munatones