Linda Kaiser, Swimming Strongly

Linda Kaiser, Swimming Strongly

Linda Kaiser, Swimming Strongly

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

When all the swimmers inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame are considered, we cannot think of one swimmer who is primarily a warm-water swimmer.

Swimming in the English Channel or at least one of the Oceans Sevens seems to be a right of passage to be considered for induction in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. Bearing the cold and overcoming hyperthermic conditions are as fundamental to the sport of marathon swimming as is dealing with distance and difficult conditions.

But one of the world’s most adventurous marathon swimmers lives in Hawaii.

A member of the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame, 64-year-old Linda Kaiser is renowned in the Hawaiian island swimming community and can most definitely be defined as a warm-water swimmer extraordinaire.

But is warm water, venomous jellyfish, and dealing with sharks worthy of a Hall of Fame induction where cold and hypothermia have been almost considered a right of passage?

We think so.

Kaiser has crossed the following channels under the tropical sun and warm-water conditions:

Hawaiian Channel #1: 8.8-mile (14.1 km) Auau Channel (Lanai to Maui) in 1989 in 5 hours 11 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #2: 8.4-mile (13.5 km) Pailolo Channel (Maui to Molokai) in 1990 in 4 hours 47 minutes [first woman]
Hawaiian Channel #3: 9.3-mile (14.9 km) Kalohi Channel (Molokai to Lanai) in 1991 in 4 hours 30 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #4: 7-mile (11.2 km) Alalakeiki Channel (Maui to Kahoolawe) in 2001 in 3 hours 30 minutes [first woman/unprecedented direction/shark encounter]
Hawaiian Channel #5: 17-mile (27.3 km) Kaulakahi Channel (Kauai to Niihau) in 2003 in 10 hours 45 minutes [first person/first woman]
Hawaiian Channel #6: 17-mile (27.3 km) Kealaikahiki Channel (Kahoolawe to Lanai) in 2005 in 11 hours 53 minutes [first person/first woman]
Hawaiian Channel #7: 26-mile (42 km) Kaiwi Channel (Molokai Molokai to Oahu) in 2007 in 15 hours 0 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #8: 30-mile (48.2 km) Alenuihaha Channel (Hawaii to Maui) in 2009 in 16 hours 10 minutes [multiple shark encounters]
Hawaiian Channel #9: 72-mile (115.8 km) Kaieiewaho Channel Relay (Oahu to Kauai) in 2010 in 47 hours 55 minutes [shark encounters]

Kaiser knows about the inherent risks in the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaiian islands. “You’ve got to respect the ocean. You’ve got to come prepared. If you’re not serious, and you’re not focused on what you’re doing, you’re bound to have trouble. The ocean doesn’t put up with any wimps.”

Kaiser should know. It was during her 1990 Pailolo Channel swim from Maui to Molokai when she noticed a dark shape in the water beneath her. According to her interview with Honolulu Magazine, the shape was “no larger than a fist at first, but was growing quickly and racing straight for her.”

All of sudden I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a shark.’ He just kept coming straight up, and I said to myself, ‘Ooh, this may not be good.'” After the 12-foot shark circled her a few times, the shark lost interest.

But that scare obviously has not slowed her down.

It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. I don’t do it for anybody else. I do it for me.”

Her track record of success in the channels, her willingness to give back to the sport, and her genuine helpfulness in volunteering for ocean swims of all distances and types are exactly the kind of role model that is great for the sport,” says Steven Munatones. “Linda is not challenged by cold water or threatened by hypothermia, but she does swim for incredibly long distances and for long periods, always with the threat of shark encounters and painful jellyfish and rough conditions where the ocean swells are truly unlike few places on Earth. She volunteers for the Kaiwi Channel Swimmers Association, is available to help channel swimmers in Hawaii, and is always lending a hand in all kinds of local events like the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

She is a true heroine who has been a stalwart in the sport since the 1980s.”

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Steven Munatones