The Gnarly, Gnarly Water Of The Molokai Channel

The Gnarly, Gnarly Water Of The Molokai Channel

The photos above give an idea of how gnarly the water can be between the islands of Oahu and Molokai.

The inaugural Ka’iwi Channel Swim was arguably the most risky relay competition in open water swimming history.

The 28-mile crossing in August 2013 between Molokai Island and Oahu was not only conducted safely, but the extremely competitive race between The Youngsters and The Veterans was neck-and-neck for nearly 10 hours with numerous lead changes.

So much could have gone wrong in the race, but everything went right under the leadership of race directors Jeff Kozlovich and Steve Haumschild.

The Molokai Channel is considered one of the most difficult channel crossings in all of open waterdom, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where massive currents, waves, winds and marine life can bar swimmers from success. It has been crossed successfully by 28 people including some of the most hardened swimmers in the world. But a cursory review of their Molokai Channel times compared with their English Channel crossing gives an indication how tough the mid-ocean crossing can be:

* Michael Miller – 16:37 Molokai vs. 16:09 English Channel
* Forrest Nelson – 16:36 and 15:55 Molokai vs. 12:41 English Channel
* Tina Neill – 17:17 Molokai vs. 11:21 (freestyle), 13:22 (backstroke) English Channel
* Darren Miller – 12:12 Molokai vs. 12:04 English Channel
* Michelle Macy – 14:12 Molokai vs. 10:02, 11:37, 10:35 English Channel
* Anna-Carin Nordin – 18:22 Molokai vs. 12:00 English Channel
* Penny Palfrey – 12:07 Molokai vs. 9:16, 9:07 English Channel
* Stephen Redmond – 22:30 Molokai vs. 20:01 English Channel
* Adam Walker – 17:01 Molokai vs. 11:35 English Channel
* Michael Ventre – 22:30 Molokai vs. 15:18 English Channel
* Kathleen Wilson – 20:49 Molokai vs. 13:10 English Channel
* Oliver Wilkinson – 13:05 Molokai vs. 11:06 English Channel
* Kim Chambers – 19:27 Molokai vs. 12:12 English Channel
* Beth French – 24:10 Molokai vs. 15:16 English Channel
* Katie Benoit – 18:00 Molokai vs. 13:13 English Channel

The 9 hour 53 minute crossing of The Veterans (Karen Schmidt, Amy Dantzler, Brent Blackman, Bill Ireland, Bruce Thomas and Dianne Gleason) and the 9 hour 56 minute crossing of The Youngsters (Terence Young, Brian King, Mitchell Degeus, Jamison Grove, Brittney Yim and Erin Yamamoto) was the first traverse by a relay in Ka’iwi Channel history. The 2014 Kaiwi Channel Swim Race, endorsed by Kaiwi Channel Association and World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA), will be the second organized relay crossing. The event just opened up for registration for the August 23rd 2014 race.

The Ka’iwi Channel Swim is a 28-mile, open ocean, island-to-island team race described as ‘the most insane open water swim event on the planet.’ We agree because that water between Oahu and Molokai can get BIG fast.

This is ultimate proving ground,” chimed in both Kozlovich and Haumschild. “Increased dangers of this event exist beyond typical ocean swim events including rapidly changing weather conditions, and absolute remoteness where assistance or rescue is NOT guaranteed and should not be depended on. Logistics are complex. Its best to think this is part-race and part-expedition.

The race is scheduled to begin at Kaluako’i on the western side of Moloka’i and end at Sandy Beach Park on East Oahu on the other side of the notorious 28-mile Ka’iwi Channel. We don’t recommend this swim to anyone. BUT, if you understand the risks and still want to compete, I think we’re all going to put meaning back in the term epic

Bill Ireland, part of the winning Veterans team, will be back for more in 2014. “It was a great experience and much of the organization will be simpler the second time.”

Kozlovich and Haumschild, who have kayaked more swimmers across the channel than anyone else, cautiously remind interested swimmers, “Ka’iwi Channel is rightfully considered one of the most dangerous channels in the world and the ultimate decision to compete in this event should be heavily and carefully considered.”

For more information and to register, visit here at

Photos courtesy of Hawkins Biggin.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones