Swimmers Vanquish Perilous Channel
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.