By Léo Azambuja
An annual open-ocean swim in Hanalei that became nationally famous in 2013 is expected to attract a record number of participants this year.
“We expect more than 300 swimmers this year,” said Gregg Kravitz, marketing director for the 8th Annual Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge.
The July 26 event has four races. Two of those are for the keiki; one for children 8 and under, and another for children between 9 and 12. The children basically race around Hanalei Pier, Kravitz said.
The adults also have two different races. The first one is a 1,000-meter race from the pier to a buoy placed in waters off Hanalei Pavilion and back to the pier. In the other adult race, swimmers will cover 3,000 meters after taking off from the pier, reaching a buoy outside Pinetrees and heading back to the pier.
“It’s the only race of its kind on Kaua‘i,” Kravitz said. “All ages and all abilities can swim.”
The race was originally created by Barbara and Dick Smith of Hanalei, who suggested a swim meet to raise funds for the Namolokama O Hanalei Canoe Club formed 10 years ago, according to Kravitz.
Now, the race has taken a life of its own, with some swimmers having participated every year since they were children, he said.
Last year, the World Open Water Swimming Association included Hanalei’s event in America’s Top 100 Open Water Swims.
“This was a total surprise,” said Kravitz, adding he was notified of the honor three months after last year’s race.
Part of the reason, he said, is the beauty of Hanalei Bay, its warm waters and a sandy bottom at the swimming area.
“It’s tough to beat this area in the summer time,” Kravitz said.
Another reason for the swim’s top honors is likely the safety measures taken during the race. The Kaua‘i Fire Department brings jet skis and lifeguards, and more than 20 volunteers from Namolokama go out on stand up paddle boards to guide swimmers and assist in case of an emergency, according to Kravitz. All volunteers go through a 30-minute life-saving class, he said.
“We’re really taking the water safety to the next level,” Kravitz said.
Registration is available at www.hanaleibayswimchallenge.com or on the day of the event, July 26, from 7 to 8:30 a.m.
The keiki races start at 9:30 a.m. and the adult races start at 9:50 a.m.