Friday: Final Day.


Sun makes heat, and heat creates pressure differentials between the air over land and the air over sea, and those differences cause the movement of that air, and you get wind. Wind acts on water to create waves. Over short distances it create choppy waves. Over long distances it creates swell. There are a lot of other factors, but that’s a typical recipe. Knowing this, we sometimes plan our longer swims in the morning, before the sun starts making wind, and that’s just what we did today.

The iconic Ironman triathlon world championship is held in Kona every October, but the swim course basically stays set up all year, creating a tempting 2.7 mile swim for us (the actual race starts offshore a bit, giving them 2.4 miles). For some of our guests it’s just a decent workout, for others it’s a bucket list goal.

We start at this tiny triangular beach between the town pier and a sea wall. It’s a very busy spot, with all kinds of people entering the water to do lots of different activities, but most of them come here to swim. In the first 50 yards, there’s a lot of fresh water pumping into the bay from underground springs, as well as some reasonably healthy coral - a testament to how well the Hawaiians care for their resources. I heard another testament to this fact as soon as I started swimming: dolphin chatter. High pitched whistles, creaks, and pops filled my ears as a large pod played nearby. I didn’t see them, but they swam right under Heather and Charlie moments later.

Our plan for the swim was to have Ryan guide Ian, Margaret, Susan, Andy, Cynthia, and Pam out to the turnaround buoy, then switch places with me after crossing paths with me and Luise. Heather would stay with Charlie the whole swim, doing a slightly abbreviated version (c’mon, give the guy a break, he took up swimming at 73 and now he’s 81). The course is well marked to the ½ way spot, called the King’s Buoy. From there to the turnaround buoy, which is a fairly small faded pink sphere, there’s nothing but 1 half mile of open sea. If there are any waves, it’s really difficult to see this buoy, so instead we sight on a spot we’ve figured out that’s on the horizon directly behind it, where there’s a mound on a volcanic slope. It’s a neat trick that usually puts us within 25 yards of our target. Though with 6’-4” guide Ryan on a SUP, there’s little need to sight on anything but him.

A couple of Manta Rays joined us for some of the return swim, and the choppy water kept building. We charged ahead through some head current, as well, and all of the guests exited the water with big smiles of accomplishment and high fives all around.  We set them loose on the town for some shopping and they came back with some great loot, and I think some Hawaiian shave ice was consumed.

Back at the Hale, lunch was Caesar salad with chicken and/or shrimp, or one of the other myriad of options we have by this time of the week. We let the hours drift by, mongoose playing in the yard, francolin birds shuffling under the trees. Books were read and naps were taken. We jumped in for a cool-down swim to our regular turnaround spot, with more rock running and fish watching in between.

We said goodbye to our pet rock, and left it there for running next year.

We said goodbye to our pet rock, and left it there for running next year.

We have a great outdoor shower at the Hale, and after a rinse we found Clare pureeing strawberries to make her delicious lava flow drinks, a Pacific cousin of the piña colada. We all headed down to the beach for a final evening photo session, and then Dan prepared a mouth watering pan seared red snapper, with cheesy taro and heirloom multi-color carrots.

Ryan is a videographer as well as a lifeguard, and he showed a compilation of his work from the week that was really well done, as was the chocolate cake Dan had made for dessert. Heather then played her slideshow, always a hit with lots of ooohs and aaaahs. Unlike the chocolate cake, seeing these videos and photos are bittersweet, as our trip is nearing its end.

Some of my best memories from this week aren’t the planned things, like our fabulous dinners or the beautiful swims, but the spontaneous moments that happen between those things. One that sticks out is when after our boat outing, I came back from the marina office to find our guests tailgating in a gritty parking lot, drinking beer and sampling some marlin jerky that our deckhand was passing around.  

Tomorrow we’ll do an early morning swim, then wrap this whole thing up. Heather and I will have 17 hours of travel back to Maine to contemplate the week, and we already have a list of tweaks to work on for next year.

Saturday’s early morning swim, our final splash, treated us to flat, calm waters at our home beach.

Saturday’s early morning swim, our final splash, treated us to flat, calm waters at our home beach.

Clare joined us for her traditional final morning Beach 69 splash, and we three lingered until the last possible minute. The wind picked up and we headed up to pack.

Hawai’i is a powerful piece of newborn land, surrounded by an equally powerful ocean. I always leave here feeling a little tossed by the place, but also energized. My understanding of and appreciation for Hawaiian culture continues to grow, and we will fold more and more of it into our future trips.

Thanks to our Ohana - our hawaiian family of Ryan and Dan and Clare Bobo. We miss you and can’t wait for next year. Thanks of course to our guests, for being flexible with our plans and embracing all that Hawaii offers up to a group of intrepid swimmers. And thank you thank you to this baby island, still being born, that never fails to surprise and thrill us, make us drunk with salt and plumeria, and keeps us coming back for more.

Until next time, Mahalo, Hawaii.

- Hopper