Mother Nature One, Mike Spalding Nine

Mother Nature One, Mike Spalding Nine

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

63-year-old Michael Spalding has seen it all during his nine channel crossings throughout the state of Hawaii.

Shark attacks, Portuguese Man-o-War wounds, huge surf, pounding waves, relentless sun, beautiful star-filled nights in the middle of the largest ocean in the world, tropical reefs and colorful marine life.

But it isn’t often a marathon swimmer gets his flesh eaten out of him and then chooses to return back to that same channel. But Spalding is no ordinary individual. He completed the Alenuihaha Channel from the island of Hawaii (Upolu Point) to the island of Maui (Nu’u Bay) in 19 hours and 43 minutes.

32 miles of massive water. Blue, clear, but massive. “The winds started out very calm, but it started to build later in the day reaching 20 knots by mid-afternoon as he approach Maui,” said fellow ultra-marathoner Linda Kaiser. “By sunset, the winds dropped back to light. Mike encountered an 8-foot oceanic white tip shark about ten miles from the start.”

Spalding and his crew could be forgiven if they thought the worse and chose to get out. But he didn’t. Spalding ignored the fact that he was previously gored by a cookie cutter shark and forged on, but not before a massive scare.

Mike had the shark at his toes. He was headed for the ladder, but the shark turned before Mike touched the ladder. Mike just hung in the water at the ladder and watched while the shark cruised by. Then the shark left and Mike continued on. But the shark returned and the crew watched it as this time it just hovered around.”

The shark chased him around a bit and then left, but returned a short time later. All hands kept a close eye on it and the shark eventually left,” recalled Linda who was on the Kialoa (which means long, light and swift) with a crew of five. But all was not clear yet. Not with Mike. “About 6 miles from the finish, Mike got tangled in a big Portugese Man-of-War. Despite being in extreme pain and experiencing stomach cramps with spasms in his right leg, Mike characteristically decided it would hurt worse to get out than to continue.”

As he entered Nu’u Bay on the Maui side, Mike faced an outgoing tide, but hit full throttle when a ‘soft sausage-like fish’ grabbed his arm. Flushed with adrenaline, Mike picked up his pace and sprinted the last mile to shore.

With his last sprint, Mike became the fourth person to swim Alenuihaha Channel and the second person (along with Linda Kaiser) to successfully cross all nine major channels in the state of Hawaii (inclusive of both solo swims and relays).

Mike now has done the following channels: 26-mile Kaiwi (Molokai-Oahu) Channel 8.8-mile Auau (Maui-Lanai) Channel, 9.3-mile Kalohi (Lanai-Molokai) Channel, 7-mile Alalakeii (Kahoolawe-Maui) Channel, 8.4-mile Pailolo (Maui-Molokai) Channel, the 17-mile Kaulakahi (Kauai-Niihau) Channel, the 17-mile Kealaikahiki (Kahoolawe-Lanai) Channel, the 32-mile Alenuihaha (Hawaii-to-Maui) Channel and the 72-mile Kaieiewaho Channel (Oahu-Kauai) with a relay.

For a full list of Hawaii Channel swimmers, click here.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones