The Creative Edge of Earth

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Friday

The Ironman Triathlon Championship is held every October in Kona, Hawaii. The 2.4 mile swim portion of the race starts at the town pier, and heads south to a fairly random spot in the large, busy bay, then back to the pier. It’s an iconic swim that we do every trip here. Being so close to an urban area, you’d think the bay would be dirty, full of trash and old tires. Actually, some of the healthiest coral I’ve ever seen lies within this bay, dolphins rest here all day, humans swim here and paddle around in all kinds of boats. It’s the heart and soul of Kona.

The turnaround buoy isn’t easy to find even on a calm day, and today the swell was up a bit, so we were glad to have guide Ryan on his SUP leading the way. The water has been charged all week, a little cloudy in places, bumpy in even in low winds. We are theorizing that the Kilauea eruptions have something to do with it, and maybe even a cause for all the wildlife we’ve seen. Added to our encounters today was yet another manta and a huge spotted eagle ray, almost as big, not to mention a big turtle that actually bumped in to Yafa while surfacing for a breath. Not sure who was more surprised on that one.

 

Heather and Yafa were last out of the water, a huge accomplishment for her, all smiles and hugs and kisses. Our favorite Hawaiian Shave Ice joint was closed, so we had to get ours from another place that wasn’t quite as good. This was our major problem today.

 Yafa and McGooks high five at her completion of the iconic swim.

Yafa and McGooks high five at her completion of the iconic swim.

 Team SwimVacation completes the swim leg of the IronMan! Next up, showers on the pier and shave ice.

Team SwimVacation completes the swim leg of the IronMan! Next up, showers on the pier and shave ice.

Everyone in our group, guides and guests alike, has a pretty severe Poke habit now. Poke is the raw fish concoction that’s so popular here, and it had been over 12 hours since we’d had any, so a quick stop at the local supermarket gave us our fix. Back at the Hale, bellies full of poke, some serious napping took place. I’m talking full REM, snoring, dreaming, drooling naps. Napping is a big part of SwimVacation, and I’m proud that our trips induce such great and frequent ones.

This was our last night of the trip, so Clare and Dan produced a Hawaiian Luau meal for us, which included more poke, breadfruit, pork, cabbage, lomi-lomi salmon, and, of course poi. Clare is on a one-woman mission to help the world understand the significance of poi in Hawaiian culture, and she tears up every time she explains the creation story around it. When you learn How to eat it and Why it’s significant, it tastes better. I promise.

We have a bedsheet taped up to a wall in the Hale, and a new digital projector that’s small enough to travel with. Ryan showed a movie he made of our trip, mostly from the fantastic drone footage he gathered all week. Such an incredible perspective on the swimming we’ve done and sights we’ve seen this week. Lots of applause. Heather then played her slide show of the best of the thousands of photos she took all week. More applause. Lots of our guests mention how important the photography is to them on SwimVacation, how it captures how a week in the water can be transformative. We also send everyone glossy photo books with excerpts from the blog after every trip. Speaking of photography, Heather took some long-exposure night shots that I’ll bet she wants to place here:

 Goodnight, Beach 69.

Goodnight, Beach 69.

Tomorrow morning we’ll jump in for a last, bittersweet swim and part ways. This group made such a tight little swimming family on arrival, and they stuck close all week. I think they leaped from bed every morning  looking forward to spending the day together. Many of them will travel and swim together in the coming years outside of SwimVacation, which makes me proud and fills my heart.

 John and Frances, in sync.

John and Frances, in sync.

Hawaii has once again blow us away with its raw power and beauty, wildlife, and culture. What a time to be here, as the volcano adds to this island, this ecosystem, this paradise. Exploring and enjoying the wonders Hawaii has to offer is quite literally a dance on the creative edge of life on Earth. How lucky we are. We’ll be back a year from now. I can’t wait.

- Hopper

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