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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

When Stephen Redmond Faced The Great Wall Of China

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Six years ago today, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer Stephen Redmond completed a 22 hour 29 minute swim across the Moloka'i Channel.

After leaving Papohako Beach on Molokai Island at 6:00 pm and swimming through the night, he finished at China Walls at 5:59 pm the following day.

Epic is often used by marathon swimmers to describe their achievements, but the adjective was apropos in this case. It was his final few hours in the rough Hawaiian waters that are legendary given the layout of the giant lava rock that Redmond was trying to reach.

Lifeguards, surfers and swimmers familiar with Oahu shake their heads at the extraordinary lengths that Redmond gutted it out to complete his crossing. With the currents running against him, he completely missed Sandy Beach on eastern Oahu (near white number 4 in the map on left).

With Sandy Beach an impossibility as Redmond moved further away from Oahu, he kept on swimming. But he also got swept past Hanauma Bay (number 3 in the map on left) where the Keo Nakama, Mike Spalding and Kelly Gleason once landed on their Molokai Channel swims.

But the former Irish rugby player was from finished. He kept plugging away.

As his crew scouted places for him to finish, Redmond only faced sheer rock cliffs, jagged lava rock, and perilous bits of terra firma jutting out like razor-sharp wire into the warm Pacific (see photo above). His crew knew that it was the anticipated finish on a sandy shore was a luxury that Redmond would not offered on this day. Faced with no options, he kept swimming southward and drifted westward past the extinct volcanoes and towards the famed Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki Beach.

Only when he reached the sheltered waters of Maunalua Bay was there any possibility of ending successfully. Somehow, nearly miraculously, he navigated a finish at China Walls (near yellow number 4 on the map of Oahu above).

"I still cannot believe we got away with it, but they tell me we did I was in shock and near death when I got out. But with such people as you behind me, I cannot fail. Thank you all," posted Redmond on his Facebook page.

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