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Mike Spalding breaks for a smile midway across the channel between Moloka‘i and O‘ahu
Vol. 11, No. 2
April / May 2008

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  >>   The Channel Swimmers
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The Channel Swimmers (Page 3)

Mike Spalding and Kelly Gleason were swimming alongside Linda when she swallowed the rogue jellyfish. They kept going. There was no moon, just 360 degrees of darkness. The swells were high, the wind blew salt spray about. Their two bodies kept moving forward, cutting through, arms and legs synchronized, rhythmic, steady. Eight hours in, two hours after the sun rose and halfway across the expanse of the channel, Kelly started throwing up. She was deeply tired. She wondered if she’d come to the end. She flashed on the reasons swimmers get derailed: cold, dehydration, exhaustion, demoralization. At eight hours she’d already swum longer than she had at any other point in her life, and she was only at the midpoint. She called to the boat for caffeine-charged goo; she called to her spirit for composure. She kept going. Ten hours in, Mike hit the wall. He asked for a peanut butter-and-honey sandwich. It was all he needed. By 1 p.m. the pair was approaching Sandy Beach, their planned landing spot. But the current switched and started accelerating. They were pushed hard down the coast toward Hanauma Bay, inching forward, driven sideways. The last two miles took two hours. As they neared the coast, they looked for a place to touch. They were in a surly landscape of cliffs and surge. Kelly put her hand on rock. Mike made it up onto a ledge, held his arms aloft in celebration, then got tossed back into the sea by a wave. When they returned to the boat, they were exuberant. Kelly had become only the second woman to swim the Kaiwi Channel, and she had tapped a strength she’d never known she carried. Mike, at 60, had more years behind him than anyone else to swim the channel. “I did it for the old guys,” he said, with the glee of a 5-year-old.