William Opelu Pai Was 50 Yards Short Of History

William Opelu Pai Was 50 Yards Short Of History

William K. (Opelu) Pai was reportedly 50 yards short of being one of the world’s recognized pioneers of channel swimming, at least in Hawaii.

Pai completed the first nearly official Molokai Channel crossing in 1939 when he rowed out to sea off the island of Molokai and swam to Oahu. Alas, because of this start, his is only a non-certified crossing.

According to the book Hawai’i Sports: History, Facts and Statistics and the account by Ray Tsuchiyama, the Hawaiian fisherman started his swim at Ilio Point (show above) and finished at the Blowhole near Sandy Beach on Oahu 18 hours 56 minutes later.

However, because he was rowed 50 yards from shore to start his swim off Molokai Island, Pai’s swim is judged simply to be a long distance swim and is not officially recognized by the Hawaiian Channel Swim Association that began governing channel swims in Hawaii in 1984.

But considering the year (1939), the lack of knowledge about channel swimming for a fisherman in Hawaii, and general conditions regularly seen off the coast of Molokai, Pai did set an unofficial bar, albeit 50 yards short, on the channel swimming world in Hawaii.

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