Swim­mers Van­quish Per­ilous Chan­nel

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - CURRENTS Ron Mizu­tani

T Rough Wa­ter Swim is con­sid­ered one of the great­est events of its kind in the world. Each year, it makes lists such as the World’s Top 100 Open Wa­ter Swims and Amer­ica’s Top 50 Open Wa­ter Swims.

De­pend­ing on currents and tides, the course can be de­ceiv­ingly bru­tal. Last year, more than 300 swim­mers were res­cued dur­ing the event, and in 2003, some 600 swim­mers had to be plucked from the ocean.

Now mul­ti­ply that by 10 … and it still wouldn’t equal the chal­lenge of those who take on the Kaiwi Chan­nel.

Many have tried and failed. Since 1961, only 45 swim­mers have suc­cess­fully com­pleted the cross­ing solo.

Leong and Ste­fan Reinke, re­cently dared to dream when sun­set and be­gan their trek to 26 miles away.

“When you spend a lot of time in the wa­ter, you think about where you are,” says Reinke. “You don’t re­ally day­dream, you don’t re­ally lose track of where you are be­cause if you do, you’re sud­denly off course.”

The Team Jamba mem­bers stayed the course with no out­side swim as­sis­tance. Leong and Reinke shared an es­cort boat that pro­vided sup­port, nu­tri­tion stops and valu­able calo­ries for their marathon swim. In or­der to make it an re­quired to re­main in the ocean the en­tire time and could not get in or hold on to the es­cort boat at any time.

This was their sec­ond at­tempt at mak­ing his­tory in as was aborted sev­eral hours af a cu­ri­ous tiger shark re­fused to leave their side.

“We did not want to be­come din­ner,” chuck­les Reinke. “It was a tough choice that day be­cause we knew that shark was how cu­ri­ous, and we thought bet­ter safe than sorry.”

Leong and Reinke trained miles long and, de­pend­ing on currents and tides, can take

The duo crossed the treach­er­ous and un­pre­dictable Kaiwi Chan­nel in 19 hours and 33 min­utes.

“It was the long­est night of my life,” says Leong. “I mean, we started our swim at 6 p.m., so we swam through ba­si­cally the en­tire night, watched the sun­rise and kept swim­ming.”

There were no sharks this time, but there were other un­wanted visi­tors.

Leong. “The way I liken it to is if you were walk­ing around in a dark room and hav­ing some­body ran­domly t ase you. It wasn’t a whole lot of the bot­tom (when they got to stopped swim­ming, grabbed bot­tom. So ec­static!”

was an out­side chance we would fin­ish is when I was about 500 feet from shore. I yelled out; I was so ex­cited,” re­calls Reinke. “I wanted to do the swim for as long as I can and com­plete it was a dream come true.”

It was a dream come true, but only with the help of an army of friends and vol­un­teers, many of whom were at Sandy’s to greet them.

“It was a fan­tas­tic feel­ing to be around fam­ily and friends,” says Leong. “I know th­ese are solo swims, but there’s no way they’re solo. In or­der for you to you have to have a good crew that is in­tu­itive and knows what to do and takes care of you. We had a re­ally good crew and they were awe­some.”

Now that the mis­sion is ac­com­plished, what’s next?

“Go­ing to have a beer and go to sleep,” says Leong. “It was a very, very, very tough ex­pe­ri­ence and swim — one of those life ex­pe­ri­ences that I wouldn’t trade for any­thing, but never in a mil­lion years do again!”

Ste­fan Reinke (left) and Ryan Leong (right) meet Linda Kaiser, who crossed the Kaiwi Chan­nel in 2007. Kaiser is the first per­son to swim all nine Hawai‘i chan­nels, and the only woman to ever do so. She cur­rently is bat­tling can­cer.

An ex­hausted Ryan Leong and Ste­fan Reinke fi­nally reach the shore at Sandy Beach af­ter their 19-hour, 33-minute swim that be­gan on Moloka‘i.

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