Kukio Blue Water Swim 2019

Nine of us from the Mauna Lani Masters Swim Team showed up as early as 6:30 am for the Kukio Blue Water Swim on the morning of Saturday, September 28, 2019. The venue could not be better with a swim start from Kua Bay adjacent to the Pu’u Ku’illi cinder cone looming large in the background. Like last year, this early morning included a gentle rain that produced an incredible rainbow above the beautiful and majestic cinder cone reminding of how blessed we are to be able to take part in these fun events.

The Kukio community itself is situated on the shoreline including the Manini’owali Beach. The beach itself is secluded and small and has plenty of white sand extending into the water which forms the shoreline at Kua Bay. The water in the bay is crystal clear and the beach is more difficult to reach than other nearby white sand beaches as it’s entrance is unmarked and only accessible by either asking for shoreline public access at the guarded and gated Kukio community entrance or entering from the Queen “K” highway through the poorly marked entrance nearer to the cinder cone. The beach and water are spectacular but be advised that any swell that affects the shoreline here produces a shore break that can be a “neck breaker” to those that are not very careful. This morning’s start had to be a “water start” due to the large south wrapping swell causing large head height + waves to crash into the beach. Great for body boarding but bad for a shoreline start to a swim race.

We parked near the concrete pathway that led to the Kua Bay starting area and walked the 3/4 mile to Kua Bay with 50 or more fellow swimmers. After we arrived to Kua Bay we all went through the typical registration and body marking as in most races and I headed down to the beach for a warm up. I have a few friends that work at Kukio and one in particular came to mind as possibly working the race. Like last year, I spotted my friend Umi on a nearby paddle board reassuring me that we had the right water safety crew in tow.

Another friend and member of our church was present at the pre-race chant and blessing, Hannah Springer. Auntie Hannah is Hawaiian and is fluent in the language and culture and has the ability to tie the Hawaiian language culture to whatever the occasion calls for using her knowledge and skills. I understand her family descends from many generations of Hawaiians particular to this very area located in the Ka’upuluhu lava flow of 1801 that extends from 4500’ up the Hualalai volcano to the shoreline at Kua Bay and northward. Auntie Hannah participates in our church services almost weekly by composing a homily given first in Hawaiian then translated into english with her incredible ability to tie both languages, vocabularies and spiritual teachings into a powerful Christian message. Lissette and I always look forward to this part of our church service and Auntie Hannah did the same this morning by tying the location of our race within her Hawaiian chant as well as calling upon our God to bless the participants and all gathered at the shoreline on this beautiful morning. This was the best part of this swim experience for me.

The race director asked us to gather for the race rules and cautionary instructions. She informed us due to the strong shore break we would be swimming out 200 yards or more to the first buoy for a water start. Rachel and I decided to swim the race together again as we had done on the North Shore Oahu Laniakea Race and we picked the right side of the line or the race buoy itself to start. We also decided to stay “inside” the buoys toward the shoreline as I learned last year the current is stronger the further out to sea you are so better to stay very tight to the buoys which we did. Starting at the buoy turned out to be the right decision even though I knew the majority of the 250 or so other swimmers would be bearing down on us as we made the turn at the next buoy where we would make a right hand turn and head 1.2 miles north up the Kohala Coastline.

There was no 5 minute count down this race. Someone on a jet ski held up 2, red, flags to get our attention as we finished swimming to the start buoy. Rachel and I checked in with each other but as soon as we faced forward, the flags dropped and we were off in the typical sea of bubbles. These bubbles temporarily cause a sense of sinking as the aeration of the water is tremendous in these mass starts. I was kicked and elbowed typically but that ended once we reached the next mark which indicated the hard right hand turn northward. I checked to assure Rachel was nearby on my right side and off we went at a gallop.

I immediately felt the strong south, swell wrapping into and along the shore and I was thankful that I breathe on my right side as the swell was coming in from my left. The swell caused a current that was in he opposite direction of the course like last year. Coach Dave has taught us to stare straight down to make ourselves as streamlined as possible and stay “long” in our stoke efforts especially when current is strong. The current was predictably strong as one piece of corral or other element on the bottom that marked my progress were somewhat stationary at times. Members of my team reported seeing rays but I did not see anything other than Rachel off to my right when I took a breath and small reef fish and a lot of beautiful coral who a looked straight down.

I had a strong swim with no lack of power and for most of the race Rachel drafted on my right hip charging hard. We stopped for a brief second at the last buoy signaling the hard right turn into the finish and again we decided to stay along the inside track bringing us into shallow water around the point break and into the Kukio Beach Club for our finish. Rachel and I climbed out of the water together in 34 minutes amongst a large group of finishers.

The Mauna Lani team represented well with Susan and Noe winning first in their age groups and Noe first women overall. Sue was 3rd overall women just behind Noe. Tina finished first in her age group and I finished 3rd in mine. Rachel asked if I wanted her to get my timing card when we finished and I told her I didn’t care to know. She retrieved my card and told our group, unbeknownst to me, that I had a “podium” finish so I was the last to know-big surprise.

The after race festivities were definitely Kukio quality with food served by the beach club staff and post race prize giveaways that seemed like they would never end from Lululemon, Patagonia, Finis, Herchal not to mention the beautiful rash guards and swim caps imprinted with the Kukio logo and art featuring dolphins and a participant badge. I’ve attended a lot of island race activities in the past 18 years and I can honestly say the organization, prizes, food, giveaways and setting of this event were second to none. My race results were several minutes faster this year than 2018 so I was very pleased. The crew shared quality time together in this beautiful place with another glorious morning along this particular part of our island!

Congratulations to all of the other swimmers as well as the Kukio organizers and staff, this was the best local swim race event ever! A big Mahalo to coach Dave Prutow for preparing us for this 2019 race season. This was the last race and looking back, all of Coach Dave’s hard workouts, encouragement and dedication to our group really paid off. We are all in great swim shape and more importantly, I am having the time of my life! 🙂