The Hawaiians, though they were incredible in the ocean—paddling, sailing, surfing, fishing—are not known to have swum between the islands for sport. The most dramatic Hawaiian swimming tale comes from the nineteenth century: After their boat went down in rough seas near Moloka‘i, a woman and her husband swam for land. He died, but she kept going, carrying his body with her. She made it across the Kaiwi Channel to O‘ahu and was still holding her husband’s body when she touched land.
In today’s world, daring swims have become a global phenomenon—in 2007 alone, a Slovenian spent sixty-six days swimming the Amazon, and a Brit swam the North Pole’s 29-degree waters. Whether the challenge is distance, or the elements or both, swimmers, Hawai‘i’s channel swimmers among them, are heading back to the source of all life: water. They go into the blood of a blue sphere, which carries, in its rhythms, the pulse of the planet. “God’s unspoiled creation,” says Mike. “That’s our church.” HH