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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Swallowing Stingers While Swimming In Hawaii

"I got stung," is an oft-stated phrase by Linda Kaiser of Hawaii.

Kaiwi Channel (Molokai-to-Oahu), Auau Channel (Maui-to-Lanai), Kalohi Channel (Lanai-to-Molokai), Alalakeiki Channel (Kahoolawe-to-Maui), Pailolo Channel (Maui-to-Molokai), Kaulakahi Channel (Kauai-to-Niihau), Kealaikahiki Channel (Kahoolawe-to-Lanai), Alenuihaha Channel (Hawaii-to-Maui), and Kaieiewaho Channel (Oahu-to-Kauai) are among the swims that Kaiser has done.

That is a long way to swim when jellyfish and sharks are as common as currents and tides. In other words, Kaiser swims where jellyfish and sharks simply are. Always have been (at least for the last 400 years) and probably ever will be (for as long as mankind is around at least).

She and Mike Spalding have more shark sightings and jellyfish encounters than arguably any other living open water swimmer or triathlete around. She explains one particular channel swim, "...it was a couple of hours into the Kaiwi Channel channel with Mike Spalding and Kelly Gleason. It was night and conditions were not great. It was pretty choppy. Because of the dark, we couldn't see where the chop was coming from so I was swallowing a lot of water.

All of a sudden, I knew I had swallowed something. I do not know if it was a jellyfish, but I assumed it was a live jellyfish. I continued swimming, but within a few minutes, I stopped and told Mike that I wasn't doing great. I became dizzy and nauseous and I was feeling numbness in my legs. I was breathing all right, but arms and legs weren't functioning very well.

I made the decision to get on the boat as Mike and Kelly continued. I lay on the boat deck and started doing my dying fish impression. I was totally jumping off the deck with muscle spasms. Between spasms, I was vomiting to the point of dry heaves. This went on for 10 hours. I was totally spent, but after 10 hours I could function again.

I am very glad I made the decision to end my swim. Our escort boat captain Jim Dixon told me later that he was watching me and was debating whether to call for a med evac. Mike and Kelly finished their swim and I returned to Molokai a week later and completed my Kaiwi Channel swim with no extra drama this time.

To input your own jellyfish encounters in a global database, go to IGotStung.com.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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