Another week, another swim and another swim report from Stephen, to whom, as always, I am indebted for sharing this with me and therefore you. Untouched as last week, (Stephen writes this stuff on his phone always). I still can’t get over Stephen doing both these swims only 8 days apart. If you don’t have tears in your eyes reading this … well, all I can say is I did.
Aloha from Hawaii where what happened over the last few days is just sinking in. thanks for your support sir . 1100 27/2/12
There was always huge doubt surrouding this swim. I weighed up and discussed all the pro and cons with my Friend Linda Kaiser in Hawaii a lrgrndary cross channel swimmmer who lhas lived here all her life. Was it conceited of me to thinks I could accompish 2 of the worlds toughest channel in a week of one another.Ariving In Hawaii the weather and my body being in bits after the cook sraits swim put every thinh in doubt.
Linda advised me to take a couple of days rest carefull high protien diet and some deep tissues massages from Mati Sapolu-Palmer another legendary triathelete in Hawai the heat and the preeration worked wonder and along with daily 2 miles swims at 6.00 am my body came back very quickly. The weather improved for the weekend and the swims was defintley on. AS always the hardest things is getting in the water and finishing so much has to work out. My wife ann was due out on Saturday but missed the swim so we enlisted another Ironman to do the worst job which was support and feeding me
eddie was quite incredible never a cross word and constant suppport.
Saturday dawned after carb loading all day friday I felt terrible with the combination of nerves and would the weather hold I was a wreck. We launched the boat with my Skipper Ivan Shigaki. watched him steam out towards Molokai on a calm sheet of water breathtaking place. i tried to rest till the short flight over to Molokai no good so just kept repeating the shot mantra i would use durung the swim. Never give up too far to fail swim molokai which i must have said millions of time to myself in tandem with my strokes during the swim along with many prayer to St. Jude. I was Lucky .
Molokai isalnd is a strange place lonely and sad compared to the other islands with bright red clay anothet friend of Lindas Hellen drove us to the west beach were we would meet the boat no piers here just an old hotel and holiday homes . the water looke calm and as we ferried out gear out the boat in dry bags I lefy a small offering of a pice of quartz a frien had given me into this i put all my doubts about my body lasting ther weather and left regret on the sand in Molokai. This is a Hawain tradition and some thing they take very seriously the skipper would not leave till it was done.
Greased up and ready i said a couple of prayers for protection and plunged into the channel. We made great headwaty for the first 2 hours covering around 6 miles water warm and very salty. we were swimminginto the night another first for me i have swam in the night but started with that intention.as darkness came on stars in the sky and if you can imagine the scene beneath me in the sea the mermaids were singing (Humpbacks Whales) and when my light caught the Phospherence in the jellys and other sea creatures beneath me was like a scene from a star wars battle scene you could not tell what was with you what was near you just block the fears out and swim. Feeds went well and as we got out the weather changed our worst fears came calling I could sea the boat being flung from left to right. Ihave come to the conclusion that the Moloaki does not like me as this happend the last time as well. nothing could be done it is what it is.
Through the night mantras and prayers in a highly lit world of my own whales very calming. The longest night of my life i thought had been the night my first child Siadbh had been born this was rigtht up there .Praying for Dawn and a glimpse of shore I kept going.No shore just 20/25 miles wind and swells jesus it was grim stuff. It was just get to the next feed and using every trick i could think of breathing in sixs on one side kicking cosistantly any thing .
I do not nrmally want to now the time but after a few hours in daylight I asked my skipper how we were doing cool as a button the skipp told me I was fine and to keep going we had been in 13 hours and still had 8 miles to go heartbraking soul destroying Moloaki was exacting a huge demands from my body.
I realy thought this was the end but how can you give up and let Linda kasier down after all the work of the week before. the positivity of the skipper and his crew Charles an ex marine telling me we were heasding for the promised land these are things that keep you going to the other side Knowing my wife ann was waiting on shore and worrying was hard you wonder why you do it stop and go that little bit futher over the edge and discover the will to complete.
hour after hour we grinded it out sometime only making 3/4 of a mile tide ands wind will kill you in the end .I thought of my proposed landing on sandy beach not as nice as it sounds in my condition I did not stand a chance of landing there the rip tide and the wave rigth up to shore catch you and spear tackle you head first into the beach. it hold the highest accident rate of any beach on hwaii for broken limbs and collarbones scarey place. Shore seemd to get close then futher as we tried to get over the ledge where the tide is at its strongest. Jesus i was dead dead dead just keep going crawl long times without seeing the boat in the swells meant it was very diffiuclt to know where i was going. At last ht e skipper made a descision to let me go with the sceaminfg tide which washed me around the by the blow hole and the keyhole towards the china walls. any were would do at this stage.
no one had ever landed there as is is a wall of razor sharp stone i some how managed to touch it and in my deleroius state tried climbing out and got hammered of the wall by the sea. I manage to swim back to the boat and was pulled aboard more dead then alive no joy just hatred for that mean strech of water that had kept me in it grips for 22.30 swimming 44 mile the longest ever crossing and the first by an irish person. Shock set in quickly Dry Retching pucking shaking crying all in one not pretty.
Today as i write this i think it realy happened but am not usre till i see the cert signed by the captain and Linda. A usual the whole community in skibbereen
ballydehob and my home townof castledermot kept me afloat with prayers and positive thoughts Linda Kauserand the Hawaii Master swimming association who i could have done this without. The trip has made me understand that no one is alone and the are amazing people every where I look The irish people in other countrys are example to us that we can get on get up and overcome any thing . I hope this makes sense and is not to silly got to go now as tears are coming again strange shit but the thiught of the pain in not finshing this swim last october and my brother Anthony pain came back to keep me going and this swimis dedicated to him.
I find a lot of similarity between Stephen Redmond’s fantastic Molokai Channel and Lisa Cummins’s two-way English Channel.
Waiting for news and updates all through a Sunday afternoon and night. The trackers working intermittently or not at all, and hoping for more updates from the boat through third parties. The agonising last 10 hours, wondering where they were, imagining ourselves out there in the water with them, wishing there was some way we could send out some mental help to them, wanting so hard to be able to send them our best, knowing that these two extraordinary people were making you really proud to be Irish and to know them even slightly is a privilege.
Stephen and Lisa both getting swept past the normal finish points and ending up in locations where no-one has ever previously ended a swim, Lisa on Dungeness and Stephen on Oahu’s Chinese Walls.
Finally, tired when the swims were over, trying to sleep, and lying there in the dark, thinking it all over, thoughts and imagination swirling around your head, knowing how difficult it would be to explain to others just how extraordinary these achievements are.
Another great moment in Irish and global sport, spent at home in front of a computer and a phone, connecting with friends also awake doing the same thing, done by two ordinary people, with nothing but dreams and extraordinary determination propelling them. In some way the loneliness of the watcher mirroring the loneliness of the swimmer, the empathic bond that distance swimmers feel with each other, purely through being the few who can understand.
First thing on different Monday mornings, listening to each of these extraordinary athletes on Irish radio, sounding like they hadn’t been through hell, my eyes tearing up just listening to them.
I thank them both for these unique moments and memories and making me so proud.
There are swimming legends around the world. Little known outside our sport. Some past, some current. In a country with a very small population of only four million, Ireland is only occasionally successful in International Sport, and we celebrate our sporting heroes as a consequence.
But in Open Water Marathon swimming, we excel.
World Open Water Woman Swimmer of the Year for 2010 was Anne-Marie Ward. Lisa Cummins was nominated for the same for 2009 for her astonishing Double English Channel. Julie Galloway-Farrell, whom we’re happy to claim as our own, is nominated for Performance of the Year and Ned Denison, (Irish to all intents and purposes, don’t let the accent fool you), is a 2011 Inductee of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
And in this group is Stephen Redmond, from West Cork, currently pursuing the Ocean’s Seven, with the Gibraltar, Catalina, English and North Channel’s already behind him and an unsuccessful Molokai also. (Irish Open Water swimmers respect the North Channel above all others). This year Stephen ALSO soloed Fastnet Rock, never previously done, (Ireland’s Teardrop, so-called because it was the last shred of Ireland so many emigrants saw as they left for the shores of America).
Sailors the world over know of Fastnet, notorious for its winds and rough water, the turning point in one of the world’s toughest yacht races. (This year, a group of us, all serious and experienced open water swimmers, were to attempt a Fastnet relay, and in four periods of waiting, we never got weather that would a relay could swim, which can tolerate much rougher water).
Stephen writes below about his incredible year. I feel humbled and proud to just be able to read this and share it with you.
2011 has been a serious and busy year. Looking back, I have met some incredible people who have helped me get this far. I have worked with and sought the advice of people around me who have shared, encouraged and kept me going when I really thought I could not go on. My wife Ann, my kids Steve and Siadbh, Ann’s mother Delia, my brother Anthony and my family, are the rock where it all starts. These are things we all rely on and fall back on when we have nothing left and they have gotten me through to the other side every time.
My first swim of the year came suddenly in May when a slot opened in Gibraltar. A friend of mine had a slot for early May and the Gibraltar swim association had agreed that I could also swim the same weekend. Doubts whether we had enough training put in and very little open water swimming done, all had to be put aside as we entered the water in Tarifa in Spain.
Dave Williams was Feeder/animator for this swim. With one swimmer of either side of the Rib we only had a five or six-hour window of opportunity for this swim. The wind had blown a steady Force 4/5 since we set foot in Tarifa.
You all know the drill. Being so early in the season we were the first to attempt Gibraltar this year.
Factors that made it a really tough swim were that this was Ivan Holloway’s (also from Stephen’s home town of Castledermot, Co. Kildare) first Channel swim, time was short, we both stroked at different rates, and every time we stopped for feeds the boat asks us to go faster. These all eat into you until you think you are swimming like a beginner, sighting constantly for the point boat, and a false sense of security, with the water being so calm.
We soon realize that the reason we are being forced to swim hard is the mental (Editor’s note: crazy) tide and currents that greet us when we get closer to Africa. I seriously think we are going to have to get out, as we cannot see the point boat or Ribs for long periods, and tanker traffic is constant. Miraculously we get in in five hours. Dave joins us for the swim into the shore and we all realize how lucky we are to have made it.
I KNOW NOTHING – Home & Fastnet
We regroup at home. Friends Dave Williams and Noel Brown are incredible, shouldering the organisation of the next swims. The logistics of getting to these distant swims weighs heavily, and much of my time lapping Lough Ine (above) is taken up with this.
Steve Munatones has a lot to answer for, putting this mad crazy idea into my head after we completed the North Channel. A lot of work goes into trying to make the swimming effortless and efficient as possible. Time is also given to the mental aspect of the swims as I find this a huge part of the swims. If I allow doubts into my head they tend to block out the positives and build momentum like a chemical reaction. I try to put my head in a freezer, locking down all ideas except; the finish of the swims, what will it be like?; what will be the taste and temperature of the water?; what kind of beach?; making the last stroke that propels your hand into the land; and the blinding clarity that it all makes sense for a second before you realize that it’s over.
A lot of experimenting with kicking, feeds, gels, and kit. All take time, and training is like a war as much as possible when I have time then work, and home, FAMILY. Then start again.
We decide to go for Catalina in October if I can get a slot. So the summer is very busy. I need to get a decent build-up swim and my old obsession swim come back to me of swimming around the Fastnet Lighthouse, either from Schull or Baltimore.
We eventually decide to try Baltimore around the Fastnet and into Schull. Taking advice from Denis Griffin, a local fishermen who tells me I am crazy. But we already know that his knowledge is beyond belief, advising that it can only be attempted on slack tides and that we have to reach the Rock at a certain time or we can forget about completing, the tides being so strong and weather so quick to change out there. The shortest distance for the swim being 24 miles, it is a monster. But I need to test myself so we know we can face Catalina. Questions about whether it is to close to the swim are there always.
As I train another insane idea come to mind and I wish they would stop but it seems to be the way.
Could we ever go onto Hawaii and Molokai and attempt it if we are successful in Catalina?
I know forcing swims is a recipe for disaster but having discussed with my doctor and support team and looking at the possibility of completing the Seven Channels and making it a Irish and World First and competing with some of the best elite swimmers in the world is bloody daunting but worth a try. (I will have to stop listening to the voices, I think they are trying to kill me).
We attempt the Fastnet swim on the morning of the 17th of October 2011. Calm weather and sun greets me and seeing as this is the fourth attempt since July, just to get in the water, I thank the gods. The Fastnet Yacht race is still in full swing, it being only two days since a multi-million yacht lost its keel and over-turned at the rock, so we have to be careful to keep out of the way of traffic out there, as if there was not enough problems.
My support team are friends who have all completed Ironman Triathlons but as we have the briefing for the swim and I describe what is going to occur, and what they may have to do, they all realize this is a daunting task. When I tell them that they cannot let me back onto the boat unless I am dead, they realize that it is going to be a long day.
Long eventful puking, sick stomach, begging to stop, but they never once panicked and were brilliant in the extreme. We ended up swimming 26.5 miles in thirtenn hours and thirty minutes in water temps of 12 to 14 Degrees Celsius, (53.6 to 57 Degrees Fahrenheit). Never had so many prayers and deals been made to never swim again if we got this swim. And utter disbelief as I rounded the pier in Schull to see Denis Griffin on the pier.
Through the tears in my bloody mask we had both waited a long time for this moment and still I wonder how we did it.
I KNOW NOTHING – Catalina
Training goes on as we approach Catalina with great fear. Getting to these places is the hardest thing of all.
And as we finally get into LA. we realise we are on the edge. The hotel is right on the water, near our boat so meal and bed. In Los Angeles another Irish contact Brian Carmody helps with the hotel and our recovery strategy if we intend to go onto Hawaii.
One day’s rest and prepping and it’s onto the boat for a steam over to Catalina Island, to start the swim at 1.00 am. I am in denial as this is the first time I have ever got on a boat to swim at the time booked for swim. Normally the wind follows me wherever I go and we are always hanging around waiting. I’m shocked. So little time to rest after flight, preparing kit and gathering stores for the boat.
We have an engine starter problem which is fixed and we are not delayed too long, nerves jangling jangling, thoughts of “have we taken on too much, so far away from home?”. Enough. We try to sleep going out. It seems a long way. Jesus, nerves. Given a shout up by Anthony, my brother and my traveling companion. The poor bugger is suffering with sea sickness. A long delay at the start trying to get us in close to shore. It’s really really dark. At last we are in.
I got pretty cold standing around and try to swim in over a kelp forest. In the end I swim/roll over them. After jarring my shoulders in the kelp I reach land exhausted and this is only the start! Not a good feeling.
I swim with a paddle-boarder next to me from the Catalina Swimming Association, which is new to me, and awkward and hard to see and avoid the board. Gracie is talking to me which I am not used to and I feel she is trying to tell me something or I should stop. Stroking at about 54 strokes per minute but the phosphorescence is like a welding arc under the water. Jesus, bad news. First feed down is a bit slow as it’s done off the board, I’m not enjoying this. The doubts, the doubts. This is their golden time. After hours Forrest Nelson (Editor: another Nominee for World Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year) comes in. I am amazed by the care taken by the Catalina Swimming Association. It is humbling to come half way around the world and meet strangers who will do anything to see you succeed and indeed Forrest, and Marta my observer got me through the monster.
I can only assume the journey and the quick lead into the swim affected me but my stomach locked up and six hours in, I treaded water for 15 minutes pleading to stop….
Never a ladder down, nothing. In the end Anthony pushed the one button that he knew would stir anger and a refusal to quit in me. He explained to Forrest to come out to me and quietly tell me that my kids had just called to see how we were and they had said that I should not give up. The tipping point of the swim. How did Forest know this?? Middle of the channel cursing them all, abuse flying, it was such a surreal moment that I had no other choice. A Milky Way was flung to me and I just put my head back in the water and got going again.
Utter joy and humility are what we should all feel . This swim bought them. We finished in twelve hours and thirty minutes to cheers and much laughter. At this point I did not want to see water again for a long long time. No way was I going to Hawaii!!
Great to meet the man who was a huge help to us in LA and with the rest of trip and future swims as well. We stagger back to room and collapse to black sleep for six hours.
I KNOW NOTHING – Molokai
Waken early to texts and calls from home. I feel neither here nor there. A call from home tells me to try one day of recovery before deciding to come home. After all we are so close and have our deposit paid on boat. Discussions with Anthony and Steve Munatones and support team at home. By the end of the day I feel pretty good. The warmer water has not taken as much as the cold water does out of my shoulders. Next morning we decide to go onto Hawaii and arrange flights and accommodation. I have to cancel Catalina thoughts for the time being and begin a blank page for Hawaii. It’s pretty hot here. We get into the hotel very tired from flights but realizing we have three good days to prepare for the swim.
These days go well and I feel strong and recovered. I swim in the sea every day. It’s very salty and the waves have incredible power. The Skipper is okay for Wednesday so off to Molokai on Tuesday. Nerves in overdrive again. You are even further from all we know and are the phones are not really working here, so little contact with home. I tell you the hardest jobs are the support team. Remaining positive and getting me through swims and airports is an unenviable task. We get to Molokai Island and the hotel. We are in the wilds now, that’s for sure.
We meet the skipper and steam around the island around five thirty A.M.. I start greasing up. Dark, dark, dark again. Into the water after a briefing and into the island over reefs. I get taken by waves and slammed. Spear tackled and scratched badly. A disaster, I lose my goggles and cap. Violent stuff,a bad start. On the beach, I scout around to see if there was anyone up. Nothing, so I signal boat and start to swim out to get spare goggles and cap. The first two hours go in a flash, the water great and warm as a bath, the feeds are great, this is good. My left eye got a fair doing from the water and is closing up. But time to get on. I swim just under eight miles in the first two hours. Great.
Then gradually the water and swell starts to get a lot rougher. Anthony tells me on the next feed that we are getting hit by a strong head current and large waves. Molokai was having fun with us. This swim was different again. Jesus, I shorten strokes to deal with swell and increase rate. The boat is a fair distance away looking for better water to see if we can get away from this awful current. The first shark wander into view. Nice clear water, I can see them a long way off. Bugger. What is it? Why it is that it is smiling? Bloody film’s bloody music. In the end it has no interest and wanders off. Lots of small jellies, stinging away. Amazing clarity in the water but the waves are like being caught and thrown like a stick and we are up to our necks in it this time. Feeds continue great, I feel much better than Catalina and full of energy. After around nine hours, which I judge by the sun on my left, the skipper is having problems holding the boat as I feed with waves coming over the side of the boat. Poor Anthony is soaked. He tells me we are nearly half way but making very slow progress against this current. More sharks and tuna all day. I’m long getting used to it now.
We carry on, constantly sighting the boat. You are on your own with your own thoughts but my head is very positive. We know nothing about pain really or how far we can really go any way. On to darkness now and still in huge swells. The next feed and the Skipper delivers an ultimatum that we are just over half way. Eleven hours into the swim and have another fifteen hours to complete , he is not happy that they are losing sight of me on the boat for long periods of time, which I did not realise. I decide to swim on, to see if we can get out of this cursed current.
At the next feed, we talk again and he tells me that he has never seen a current like this in the Channel. Anthony is distraught, knowing that we must come out on safety grounds. There have also been a lot of sharks scouting around for the last few hours or so.
Terrible to be honest , the Skipper tells me he cannot guarantee that I will not be lost, even with a shot of glow sticks on, and advises me to come out after eighteen miles and eleven hours and thirty minutes. The steam back is very long and very quiet. We clean up and chat and realise the water beat us and we could have gone on for many hours.
A steep learning curve indeed and we have learned so much for when we come back. Which we will.
I KNOW NOTHING – 2011
The whole year has gone so quickly and we have met great people and learned so much. I am delighted to be nominated for the WOWSA swim award I hope you will vote for me and we will complete the remaining Channels next year. I hope for your continued support and realize how lucky I have been. Great people, great water, great swims and so many great swimmers . We have all come too far to fail. Thank you for your support.
Stephen continues his extraordinary journey toward the Ocean’s Seven, after swimming Catalina Channel only last week, with the Molokai Channel, between Oahu and Molokai Islands in Hawaii beckons. It’s 26 miles wide. Go all the way Stephen!
Molokai will be warm by our standards, but is known for jellies, sharks, winds & currents and big swells, especially at this time of the year and potentially large breakers at start and finish. Logistically it’s more difficult. Here’s a good description of it from the record breaker Darren Miller last week on The Daily New Of Open Water Swimming.
I really wish we had a tracker.
EDIT: Update from Facebook via Lisa …
He's got 14k done, 3hrs 15mins in. Stomach and feeding all ok so far. 32k to go.
All good so far. Go Stephen.
EDIT 2: Morning Update from Ossi:
Morning all…unfortunately Steve was pulled out of the water on safety grounds! He swam 5 miles in the first 2 hours and then hit a brick wall in the form of the ‘el nino’ current something that normally appears once every 10 years. He was basically swimming onto a vicious head current that was creating 8-10 foot swells.anthony and the skipper couldn’t keep sight of steve any longer as it was dark and so they had to pull him. At least he gets to fight another day! Thanks for all ‘the good wishes.
That’s a tough one for Stephen. He only completed Catalina last week, and I doubt any of the Irish swimmers think this will stop him, but the main problem that all swimmers have who aim so high, is finance, particularly for the remoter locations, like Molokai and the Cooke Strait. I look forward to meeting Stephen at the Channel party!
Oahu (top left) and Molokai (long island off centre)