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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

  >>   City on the Edge of Forever
  >>   The Channel Swimmers
  >>   Shaka Buddha

The Channel Swimmers (Page 6)

Laurie Foster has swum four channels, all of them alongside Mike Spalding and Linda Kaiser. The trio did Maui to Kaho‘olawe successfully in 2001, crossing in high winds and large swells; it was the first known time that the channel had been swum in that direction. In 2003, with a fourth swimmer named Tom Robinson, they crossed the 20-mile channel from Kaua‘i to Ni‘ihau, another first. The next swim, two years later, was Kaho‘olawe to Lana‘i, yet another that had never been done before. Laurie thought the channel was ten miles. Flying over from O‘ahu to Maui for the swim, she looked at the airline’s route map of the islands and idly put her finger between Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. The distance was a section and a half of her finger. Then she put her finger between Kaho‘olawe and Lana‘i. That was almost two sections. “Hmm,” she thought, “look at that. The map’s wrong.” Five miles across the channel, she found out that the map wasn’t wrong.

“How much more?” she asked the support boat driver, thinking the trio was at about the midpoint.

“Thirteen or fourteen miles,” he replied.

“What did you say?” Laurie looked at Mike, shocked. “How long is this swim?” she asked.

Mike, can do-ness personified, smiled and replied, “Come on, we’re going.”

Laurie, livid, turned to Linda. “I am so pissed right now,” she said.

“Just don’t think about it,” Linda said.

“Don’t think about it?? What the #%@* do you think I’m going to think about for the next eight hours I’m out here?”

The swim was brutal in the end, much longer than anyone had anticipated; it took twelve hours. They finally approached Lana‘i as the sky was darkening, swimming through the ring around the island—where the reef begins, the fish thrive and the sharks feed—as the sun was going down. Mike told everyone to slow down and stay together. Despite the cold in her body and the anger, Laurie took heed. “When Mike gets scared, that’s when I get really scared,” she says. “’Cause he knows so much and he’s Mr. Freewheeling. When he has concern in his voice, there’s reason for concern.” But they saw no sharks and another channel had been completed.