On the 4 hour boat ride to Molokai prior to the start of my swim, I felt almost as if the universe was dropping quiet hints. Poor Joe was seasick a mere 30 minutes into our adventure. At one point, Steve, my lead Kayaker pulled me aside and pointed to his associate kayaker, Sheila. She was small and lean and beamed at being out on the water. “Watch her. She’s a badass. She surfs 25-30 foot waves. No problem.” Little did I know how useful this skill would become a few hours into my swim.
The sunset was gloriously spectacular. But as I watched the sun disappear below the horizon and darkness descend upon us, my mind turned to my swim. With Oahu now barely visible behind and the scant lights of remote Molokai coming into view, I felt a surge of anticipation and my heart begin to race.
With the sun now completely gone, it was pitch black, except for the sky, which was illuminated as a stage backdrop, flipped on to signal it was showtime. Dropping anchor in a tiny cove, the wind and waves died down and the boat became eerily still. As we prepped for my departure, I felt like an actress in a dressing room and the team briefed me on conditions, which looked as good as they could be. A light easterly wind was expected to be pushing me gently towards Oahu. On my list of fears was a surf entry and yet the cove was glassy with only a mild bounce of wave on the shore. We were giddy with excited anticipation for it seemed like the stars had aligned perfectly for a safe and relatively easy passage across the channel.
Joe jokingly called out “its time for your embalming.” As he slathered my exposed skin with sunblock and then lanolin I felt like a cross between a corpse being prepared for burial and a performer prepped with stage make up. It was time for me to go. Joe and Steve escorted me through the darkness to the beach. It may have been only fifty yards but it felt like two hundred. We carefully picked our way over the rocks and onto the beach where I would begin my journey.
Standing on the beach at Molokai in complete darkness, lit only by the green blinky light from Joe’s goggles that rhythmically matched the pulsing of my terrified heartbeat I walked gingerly towards the waters’ edge. The curtains on my stage were being hoisted above me and I could hear the audience beginning to hush.
As my toes met the dead calm shore, without a breath of wind, earlier talk of perfect conditions and a respectable swim time seemed too good to be true. Careful not to trip on the rocks in the shallow shore, I entered my very own arena, easing my hands and then my body into the dark abyss. With my first few strokes Linda’s careful words reverberated through my head: “This will be the hardest thing you have ever done.”
Photo credits: Hawkins Biggins Photography