Starlight Express.

“The wind is beginning to push us off course. We’re going to have to course-correct. Follow me,” yells Steve through the howling wind. Steve was my principle kayaker, switching every 2 hours with his associate kayaker, Sheila. At the completion of my swim I would owe them both a debt of gratitude for tirelessly shepherding me across the channel. Quick and agile, they both miraculously found ways to pick through and navigate the massive swells. The day following the completion of my swim, I aptly nicknamed them my “Hawaiian Ninjas.”

Irked with deteriorating conditions out of my control, I channel my frustration into that which I know I can control: my swimming. Changing course means swimming directly into the waves and wind. I had no other choice. I catch a glimpse of Steve a few feet away, put my head down and swim towards him.

One, two, three… breathe. One, two, three… breathe. Conditions have deteriorated and this swim is becoming far more challenging than we expected at the start. Earlier talk of “perfect conditions” becomes vastly incongruous with what I am experiencing and Mother Nature clearly has a different plan. Negative thoughts begin to creep in my mind.  I push them away. One-by-one.  I think of the beauty that surrounds me. I think of the fact that I am the only human in the world swimming through this great expanse tonight. I think of all the creatures – big and small - swimming below me.

The intensity of my concentration is pleasantly interrupted by a sublime symphony of whistling and squeaking. It’s absolutely otherworldly and utterly captivating. And it’s getting louder! I keep swimming, listening intently to determine the source.  A few minutes later I shout a confident “Whales!” as I take a breath. “Great!” replies Steve (I find out later he heard a blow hole shortly after and believed momentarily that a whale was breaching underneath him). This majestic composition continues to flow through the dark abyss, when all of a sudden, swimming mere inches from my fingertips, is a DOLPHIN!

Lit up with a bioluminescent glow, the profile of the dolphin materializes right in front of me. We make eye contact as it pauses briefly before zipping past me. The squeaking amplifies and seconds later I’m surrounded by more dolphins. Zipping in front of me and below me, they’re putting on quite a production. I’m convinced they’re showing off. It’s a perfectly choreographed aquatic Broadway show without the catchy tunes. My very own “Starlight Express.” I’m in awe and grinning ear to ear. I make an effort to squeak back to express my delight. The dance continues for 30 minutes. Alone again I marvel at what I witnessed. A few minutes later they return for an encore.  But then I am left alone with my thoughts and increasingly rough waters and high winds…