Penny Palfrey Across The Kaieiewaho Channel

Penny Palfrey Across The Kaieiewaho Channel

Courtesy of WOWSA, Kaieiewaho Channel, Hawaii.

Almost 10 years ago, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Swimmer Penny Palfrey of Australia attempted a solo 115.8 km crossing of the Kaieiewaho Channel between the islands of Kauai and Oahu.

In November 2010, she made her second attempt, starting from Ka’ena Point on Oahu with plans to finish on Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor. To put her attempt in perspective, the English Channel is 33.5 km – Kaieiewaho is 115.8, nearly four times as far.

On her first attempt, the 47-year-old was supported by Jeff Kozlovich, Forrest Nelson, Bill Goding, Neil Vaughan, and escort pilot Don Jones.

Both times, her crew protected her with a Shark Shield, but sharks were not her biggest obstacle to success.

Instead, she was stopped by marine life much smaller that she could not see or avoid, both the first and second attempts.

As the sun was setting, box jellyfish rose to the surface from the Pacific Ocean depths and stung her mercilessly. The venomous stings immediately put a halt to her swim and later caused convulsions, pain and deep red welts all over her body, a story retold by Steven Munatones on today’s WOWSA Live.

Paddler Jeff Kozlovich with Penny Palfrey early in the crossing

Palfrey recalled her initial attempt across the Kaieiewaho Channel, “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.

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.”

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Steven Munatones