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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Penny Palfrey Keeps The Molokai Channel In The Family

Penny Palfrey spent the night before her Molokai Channel swim in an evacuation center on Molokai due to the tsunami warnings that were into effect throughout the state of Hawaii due to the devastating earthquakes in Japan.  At 10:30 pm the night before her planned swim, Penny and her husband were awaken by the hotel staff and told them had ten minutes to evacuate the hotel due to impeding tsunamis that would hit Hawaii. 

Quickly gathering all their belongings and rushing out their rooms into their rental car, they took off quickly to higher ground.  Unfamiliar with the island of Molokai, they followed a line of cars and eventually found themselves at Molokai High School gymnasium, one of the designated evacuation centers on the island.  Unable to sleep on the bleachers, Penny was not happy with worry etched on her face.

Yet she remained focused on her goal of completing the Molokai Channel, a swim that her husband Chris held  the record of 12 hours and 53 minutes.

Meanwhile, her pilot Jim Dickson (shown on right) was instructed to leave the wharf where he had been waiting for Penny's arrival the following morning.  Jim and his son Codie left for deep water out of the impact of the surge that was expected. 

The unknown and uncertainty reigned.  Neither Penny nor Jim could predict what would happen over the next 24 hours - they stayed glued to the TV and radio news.

But they both kept faith that the swim would eventually come off and stood alert for any breaks or opportunities.

But dawn came and the tsunami warnings were still in effect.  Penny had moved from trying to sleep on uncomfortable bleachers to resting in the back of her rental car.  At 8 am, Penny and Chris tried to get to the wharf, but the police had blocked all roads and there was no possibility of getting down to the water's edge.  Reluctantly, the team moved back to the evacuation center.

Penny, Chris and Jim talked and they decided to see if the restrictions would be lifted later in the day.  But every minute they delayed the start, the weather continued to deteriorate.  All the months of planning that had gone into picking the right time and place to start the swim had gone out the window.  With no sleep and plans gone awry, it was remarkable how confident Penny still remained in her training and her team.

By 9 am, the authorities had lifted vehicular travel restrictions and granted access to the wharf.  Penny and her crew raced down to the shoreline to witness the continued surge from the tsunamis that had broadsided all the islands of Japan.  The energy stored up between the islands was evident wherever one looked upon the shoreline.  Yet, despite these ominous signs, Penny and crew boarded Jim's Kihei Boy escort boat and drove full throttle to the start as Penny prepared on the rocking boat.

As they reached Laau Point on the westernmost point of Molokai Island with Oahu a full 26 miles away, the winds slapped them in the face and threw a relentless stream of whitecaps at them.  For once, worry was finally etched on the veneer of Penny's face.  But she applied layers and layers of sunscreen and lanolin to protect her face and went through her normal stretching regimen and preparations. 

She was ready to take on Mother Nature come literally hell or high water.

At 10:54 am, Penny jumped in the water and took off at her controlled but furious 76 stroke per minute pace.  Hour after hour, she maintained the quick pace and only occasionally commented that the conditions were less than ideal.  "The water is kind of bumpy," she smiled with a twinkle in her eye during her feeding stops every thirty minutes.

She gave strict instructions to her crew - give me data - data that she needs to pace herself intelligently throughout the swim including how far she swam and how far she needs to go.  

By the fifth hour, it was apparent that Penny was on record pace despite the less-than-ideal circumstances.  "It was tough.  I wanted to put in a big effort in the beginning so I could get away from [the Molokai] shore due to our late start. I guess I used up a fair bit of energy and I thought I would pay for it later, but I have done a lot of training.  That last bit [of the swim] was hard getting into shore [on Oahu] with the full flood of the ebb tide."

 Penny acknowledged the tough stretch of water was also incredibly gorgeous.  "It was great out there.  It was beautiful.  I swam over a whale before my first feed.  I first thought it was a whale shark, but I also saw the bottom so I figured that it could not possibly be [a whale shark.].  That was pretty amazing.  I saw dolphins.  I actually saw the fins."

Every 30 minutes she stopped, but every so briefly.  First a banana-flavored drink on the first feeding stop, then a chocolate-flavored drink on the second, then coffee-flavored on the third.  Over and over again, but the stops were nearly always under 10 seconds.  Reach, drink, listen and go.  Reach, drink, listen and go.  She was making an incredibly difficult channel on a particularly tough day look easy.

"It was rough.  The beginning was particularly tough.  It never really settled down.  It was hard work.  I am satisfied.  My crew was amazing; they worked hard.  I knew everyone was tired after getting no sleep with the tsunami warning and asked to leave the hotel.  It was a big effort from everybody."

Penny's big effort resulted in a record-setting swim of 11 hours 40 minutes and 33 seconds, more than an hour faster than her husband's previous record.

"Since first watching marathon swimmers from 1979, Penny Palfrey's swim was one of the gutiest swims I have ever had the privilege to witness," said observer Steven Munatones.  "She made one of the toughest channels in the world - on a particularly rough day under extraordinarily unusual conditions after a sleepless night - look simple.  Few others could have done that.  She was amazing."

Different scenes from Penny's swim follow:

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source


  1. Gracias, muchas gracias por habernos informado .. Estoy muy feliz por el gran éxito de Penny ..
    Me siento muy feliz cuando puedo ver y leer estas grandes aventuras en aguas abiertas ¡¡

    Thank you thank you very much for having us informed .. I am very happy for the great success of Penny ..
    I am very happy when I can see and read these great adventures in open water¡¡

  2. Penny studded out...Coming from a no-sleep night and still powering out a championship effort to set an overall record! Wow! Congrats to Penny and her all-star crew! Thanks Steve for all the good info and updates! Very motivational swim for all of us in the open water swim world! Once again, WAY TO GO PENNY!!

  3. Fantastic story, and what an accomplishment. Waters here off of Newport were nasty on Friday morning. Penny is a real champion, and it shows how much determination overcomes obstacles. Great job Penny!


Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

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

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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.

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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.

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