By Diane Ako
Penny Palfrey has a whale of a tale when she sees her friends and family in Australia. The Australian marathon swimmer, who completed swim two of three in the Hawaiian Islands, debriefed the media after her last swim.
I wrote about her in a previous blog before her attempt, but this is a fuller follow up with the team after they had time to rest and unwind after the massive undertaking. The woman is gutsy if nothing else. She started her swim while Hawaii was still under a tsunami advisory, the morning of Friday, March 11.
Apparently, she spent the night before in an evacuation center in Molokai, so she and the team didn't really even get sleep! The swim was to start in the pre-dawn hours, so the boat captain had been waiting by the shore. Due to the tsunami surges, he had to move to the open water for safety. Finally, when the authorities opened the harbor at 9 am, the team drove to the shore to start the swim.
"She was ready to take on Mother Nature come literally hell or high water," wrote her swim advisor Steve Munatones. "At 10:54 am, Penny jumped in the water and took off at her controlled but furious 76 stroke per minute pace. Hour after hour, she maintained the quick pace and only occasionally commented that the conditions were less than ideal." With characteristic laser-focus, she pursued her goal of finishing the Kaiwi Channel.
Difficult though it was, Penny also recalls amazing scenery. "It was great out there. It was beautiful. I swam over a whale before my first feed. I first thought it was a whale shark, but I also saw the bottom so I figured that it could not possibly be [a whale shark]. That was pretty amazing. I saw dolphins. I actually saw the fins."
"Conditions during the crossing were far from ideal, with 15+ knot NE to ENE winds and wind waves of 6 - 8 feet, clashing with a 6 -8 foot NW swell. Despite this, Penny made very good and steady progress, hour after hour. Then, as a final test, she had to battle a front on current for the last hour as she approached Sandy Beach in the dark. Pilot Jim Dickson and kayaker Jeff Kozlovich (a Honolulu lifeguard) guided her in through the surf and she left the water at 10.34pm. Her total elapsed time was 11 hours 40 minutes. She eclipsed the previous record (which I held) of 12 hours 53 minutes, set in April last year. And prior to that, the record was 13 hours 20 minutes, which had stood since 1974. Penny is the 14th person to swim the Kaiwi Channel, since it was first crossed in 1961. We are the only married couple to have completed it," said Chris.
The team didn't return to their Waikiki hotel until after 1 a.m.! Details on the outcome of their much-discussed third swim.
To read a first-hand account by Munatones, click here.
Also reach me via DianeAko.com