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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Aloha Dr. Harry Huffaker

Dr. Harry Huffaker, shown on left at the age of 50 after 18 hours in the channels in Hawaii, has had a remarkable open water swimming career and was inducted this year in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

The Daily News of Open Water Swimming has previously written articles about Dr. Harry Huffaker.

Below are two that touched upon his marathon swim successes as well as his dramatically disappointing failures.

Throughout his career, Harry faced scary night swims, sharks, jellyfish, massive ocean swells and extremely strong currents during unprecedented swims in the tropical waters of Hawaii, but he always fought back and returned to conquer the major channels of the Hawaiian Islands.

During his 1967 Molokai Channel swim, Harry saw a large shark and was going to immediately get out, but when he looked for the support boat, the shark was between him and his boat, which was too far away for an easy escape. Fortunately, the shark swam away - as did Harry towards his goal which he finally reached after 16+ hours.

After the initial shark encounter as told by Julia Steele of Hana Hou Magazine, Harry ran into another unexpected issue. "Four hours into the swim, the support crew received a distress call from another boat going down in the channel. They were going to cancel the swim in order to render aid, but other boats in the area radioed they would help. Although no survivors from the sinking boat were found, a large shark that contained human remains was caught the next day."

But as Harry continued to grow his dental practice in Honolulu, he kept on swimming and planning his next adventure in the pre-GPS era.

Julia writes about Harry's first crossing of the 30-mile Alenuihaha Channel between the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui"

During a pre-swim dinner only hours before he was set to become the first person to swim from the Big Island of Hawaii to Maui, Harry recalls the time he had been told by his host that there was an annual shark hunt off of the very starting point of his 30-mile channel swim. The locals kill a cow, drag it out to sea, watch the sharks swarm in. The host brought out the video and showed Harry the shark frenzy.

Certainly blood and hungry sharks are not exactly the type of imagery that most marathon swimmers want in the hours leading up to a night swim in shark-infested waters that had never been done before. But this was actually Harry's second attempt at the Alenuihaha Channel. His first attempt ended after 17 hours when strong currents off of Maui defeated him. But, true to his pattern of success, his second attempt ended as he walked upon the shores of Maui...this time after 20 hours.

Before his successful Oahu-to-Molokai crossing of the Molokai Channel in 1972, Harry failed in an earlier 20-hour attempt when he hit currents off of the islands. True to his nature, Harry tried again and again came up against two notorious obstacles in tropical waters - a huge brood of Portuguese Man o' War and a tiger shark. When he stung unmercifully and repeatedly by the Portuguese Man o' War, his throat ended up swelling and he had to swim without the benefit of his legs because the large influx of toxins temporarily paralyzed him below the waist.

Later, with only a mile to go, he saw a menacing tiger shark lurking below him. Circling, circling slowly. As he told Hana Hou Magazine, "It's either me or the shark and I’m not stopping." The shark circled a few more times only to disappear as Harry forged on to notch another channel under his belt.

With a slew of channel swims was behind him, Harry wasn't about to slow down as he hit the age of 50 in 1989. As a fundraiser for the Rotary Club, he decided on a triple-channel charity swim: from Lanai to Maui, then Maui to Molokai, then Molokai back to Lanai. After starting out in calm seas, he completed his first leg without problems. On his second leg, the winds came up and blew him off-course although he was able to struggle to the finish.

On his third and final leg, there were high surf advisories in effect and he had to call his swim off after spending 18 hours in the (literally) high seas. But donors poured in and Harry raised US$225,000 for college scholarships.

As Harry, an international representative of the Channel Swimming Association, enjoys his well-deserved retirement in Idaho, we salute his renowned channel swimming career, his spirit of adventure and his relentless tenacity to see through his marathon swimming goals:

1. Second person to cross the 42K (26-mile) Molokai Channel (Kaiwi Channel) in 1967 from Molokai to Oahu
2. First person to cross the Molokai Channel from Oahu to Molokai in 1972
3. Three times across the 8.8-mile Maui Channel (Auau Channel from the island of Lanai to Maui in 1987 and 1989
4. First person to cross the 9.3-mile Kalohi Channel in 1989 from Molokai to Lanai
5. The 8.5-mile Palilolo Channel from Maui to Molokai in 1989
6. First person to cross the 30-mile Alenuihaha Channel from the Big Island of Hawaii to Maui in 1970

Remarkably, it took another 39 years before Penny Palfrey and Linda Kaiser replicated Harry's feat in the Alenuihaha Channel, both in 2009.

As he was described from a young age, Harry is one tough kid.

And he has a lifetime of success to show for it as a pioneer of Hawaiian channel swimming.

The second article, entitled 'This Fellow Had Something', was from December 2009:

We previously reported on Harry Huffaker, arguably the greatest dentist-adventurer of all time and a member of the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame.

In our story, we mentioned that Harry attempted an English Channel crossing. Harry shared with us a letter from December 28, 1963 written by Peter Frayne about Harry's his attempt on the Channel.

Peter’s letter provides an insider’s view and great insight into Harry and the bygone days of Channel swimming 45 years ago.

It was in July, the telephone range and "Is that Mr. Frayne?" I wanna swim the Channel,” was my first introduction to Harry Huffaker, American Extraordinary.

Within an hour I was to meet what seemed to me (and I have a vast experience of these types, having pounded the best in the Gateway of English for over 17 years) a typical student, bumming his way round the world just for kicks. Sneakers and sweat shirt, jeans and a jerkin, 4-day stubble and a wide smile – that was Harry.

I sized him up in an instant – this lad just didn’t know the enormity of the task – wait until I told him what it cost – how much he would have to train – then he would change his tune. So I let him have it. A boat and pilot will cost you £75, and more if you use him for training; accommodation is not cheap and not easy to find, you will need extra food and the Channel Swimming Association fee is 8 guiness. You will have to train until it hurts, and is that water cold. Within a couple of weeks, you will have to stay in the water for 2-hour spells and later on sprinkle in a few 4-hour stints, and then if you can manage it – a 7-hour turn. All this before you can seriously think you have a chance. I told him of the flood and ebb tides, either of which can take you miles off course. And, I said, "You have to be a pretty good performer to start with."

"I can swim," says Harry with quiet confidence. "I swam for my college, I still want to have a go." Was I mistaken, was this young man really in earnest, had he got what it takes. He was soon to show me.

The next day, he applied for, and got a part-time job at a hotel with food thrown in; a room in a boarding house near the seafront and has acquired a track-suit. And what is more, he showed me his prowess in the harbor. For someone who has not swum competitively or trained for over a year, the performance was first rate. His speed through the water compared favourably with an extremely fast Pakistani long distance swimmer who had been in constant training for years. Yes, this fellow had something – but would he keep it up? He did.

Harry got stuck into the arduous task of bashing up and down the harbor in the still, very cold water of the English Channel, knowing that he had to accomplish in two months, what most aspirants would build up to in 12. In fact, Comdr. Forsberg (our President) who broke the England-France record in 1957, trained for 2 hears for this swim in mind. So little time with so much to do, but it didn’t daunt our Harry. Within a few weeks, he was swimming marginally faster than our Pakinstani friend. To speed up his training, he got a job at a near-by holiday camp that boasted a swimming pool. Naturally he was the swimming instructor, but I have a sneaking feeling that most of the instruction was on himself.

Than of all things, out of the blue, Harry got married. How could such a thing happen to one of my swimmers? I was stunned. It was unheard of. A swimmer, in the middle of his training to swim the Channel, getting married. But it didn’t upset the schedule as I thought. His wife, Chris, urged him to even greater efforts, and Harry responded. His parents too, who at a moments notice flew to England for the wedding, were as keen as mustard and stayed on for the big swim. Every day you could see Papa Huffaker walking along the seafront, stopwatch in hand, gazing out to see at Huffaker Junior punching through a loppy sea.

Training sessions were stepped up – a long swim in the open channel organized, but enthusiasm cannot replace experience, and time cannot be replaced by tenacity. And experience, and time were two things that Harry did not have. There never will be a short cut in training for what is one of the premier marathon events in the world. The four successes in 1963 showed this. Each one had a history of long and arduous training behind him and the experience of other long distance events to boot. Whoever heard of a sprint swimmer making his debut into long distance swimming with a bash at the English Channel? But that’s your Harry.

At 5.55 a.m. 14th September, goggled and greased on Griz Nez beach, he stood with Abdul Malek and waded into the cold surf. Conditions were fair to good and hopes ran high. But the sages were right, damn them. No-one, no matter how good, could succeed in the Channel at the drop of a hat. It was a valiant swim. It could not be called a failure.

I saw Harry in the local hospital an hour after he was landed at Dover. Still greasy and tracksuited and that Channel look in his face. I could see that he had had a beating. Those waves smacking you in the face can be cruel. But although disappointed, he was not downhearted. "I’ll do it next time," he told me. He learned a lot during that swim, and I believed him.

This man has the potential of a top class long distance swimmer, who would shine especially in tidal swims where his speed would be a vital factor. Given the time to train sufficiently and free from financial worries, I can see Harry contending for top honours in any international long distance event he cares to enter.
I sincerely hope he has this opportunity.

Peter Frayne, Assistant Secretary Channel Swimming Association.

Harry surely took advantage of all the opportunities he later created for himself.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


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CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Swim Across the English Channel...


Who else is looking for a qualified open water swimming coach to help them swim across the English Channel?

Chloë McCardel is a 6-time English Channel Swimmer who inspires and instructs. Access featured content by Chloë in this month's issue of the Open Water Swimming Magazine. Published monthly by WOWSA, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a digital, interactive publication made available exclusively to WOWSA members. See what you've been missing! Become a WOWSA member today!

Open Water Swimming Magazine

Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...

The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac

An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program