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Friday, September 11, 2015

Six Feet Deep Sixes Harry Huffaker's Dream

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Jim Cotton, one of the founders of the Waikiki Swim Club, Waikiki Roughwater Swim and Maui Channel Swim, knows high surf and rough water conditions. Living on Oahu, where some of the largest paddle-in waves exist, Cotton has seen his share of towering waves and massive ocean swells.

This week on Oahu after the cancelled Waikiki Roughwater Swim, Cotton talked turbulence with Harry Huffaker about Huffaker's planned Molokai Channel swim. With Huffaker's window about to begin, Mother Nature dished out 20-knot winds and 6-8 foot wind waves across the Kaiwi Channel with numerous heavy showers and a slight chance of thunderstorms.

Needless to say, Huffaker will not be swimming under these conditions over the next few days or this season.

"I arrived in Hawaii one week ago. It has proven to be quite a tumultuous week beginning last Saturday when the Waikiki Roughwater Swim was cancelled due to high surf and safety concerns with some 900 swimmers poised for the 8:30 am start. Since then the daily temperature has been a stifling 90°F with matching 89-90% humidity. Relief and comfort was provided by intermittent periods of air conditioning. The combination resulted in a head cold, congestion and difficult sleep conditions. For the most part I laid low in the hopes of recovering and maintaining strength. The weather was quite unstable and confused with three Category 4 hurricanes hovering about.

Dreams and plans for making an attempt at another crossing of the Molokai Channel ended this afternoon.

As of yesterday, based on semi-favorable weather report from NWS of 1-2 foot waves with light variable winds from the south of 5-10 knots, it seemed like it was all systems go. Spirits soared. Support boat and crew were organized and at the ready at the Waikiki Yacht Club for a 6 pm departure to Molokai on Saturday.

I was to fly to Molokai in the afternoon with Bill and Lynn Vogt to await the arrival of the boat for an 11 pm start. This morning I enjoyed a very pleasant easy 1.2-mile swim at Ala Moana Beach Park. I felt great physically and mentally. Upon returning to the vehicle after the swim, my cell phone was ringing. A call from Bob Rocheleau reported another updated weather forecast that is a dramatic contrast in both wind speed, wind direction and wave height up to 8 feet on Tuesday. A few minutes later, a weather alert appeared on my cell phone about a flash flood warning in effect until early evening. The extended forecast did not indicate any improvement during the coming week.

As a result, tomorrow’s to-do list includes making flight reservations to return to Idaho. Time to lick wounds, heal, and contemplate about future direction. Many thanks for your interest, encouragement and support during the past 9 months!

Jim Cotton is shown on left with Harry Huffaker on the right.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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