North Shore Oahu-Laniakea to Pua’ena Swim Race!! July 20, 2019

The Mauna Lani Masters Swim Team decided to head over to the North Shore on Oahu this year for our summer get away swim from Laniakea to Pua’ena Point on July, 20th 2019. This race is part of the North Shore Swim Series which is a “5-race festival of progressively longer swim events giving swimmers the opportunity to swim the “7 mile miracle” of Oahu’s famous North Shore” according to the race sponsor’s website. The North Shore Soap Factory sponsored this race and provided great after race food, refreshments and awards.

Our summer get away last year was on Labor Day 2018, members of our group participated in the Lana’i to Maui Channel Crossing relay race which was epic but we decided to create some different memories on our pursuit of all things swimming!! We all stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort which exceeded all expectations regarding quality of food, room size and amenities not to mention the beautiful location on the north shore of Oahu.

The Turtle Bay Resort is far enough away from Honolulu to feel very much like Kauai or the Big Island in some places but with the big exception that it is very near the “7 mile miracle” stretch of the best waves in the world including the “Bonzai Pipeline” and “Waimea Bay”. The resort has several surf breaks nearby, horse back riding, bike trails, walking trails and many other easy to reach activities. I really encourage a “staycation” for island residents and those that frequent the islands also-you will not be disappointed. Our only regret is we have not stayed here in the past. Thank you for our tema mate Sue who encouraged us to participate in this event and stay at Turtle Bay. The Resort is one hour drive from the Honolulu airport or the Waikiki area so easy to reach.

On race day morning, we all decided to meet at 6:30 am in the hotel lobby to get an early start to the race check-in even though the race started at 9:00 am. We were not sure where we were going nor what we would run into once we arrived. The check-in was near the race finish at Pua’ena Point on “Kahalewai Place” at the Haleiwa Beach Park where we would eventually be shuttled to the race start in school buses to Laniakea Beach Park. We were the first to get checked in and go through body marking and waited around an hour and a half to board the shuttle buses as we knew there were no facilities once we arrived to the race start location and no access to our back packs etc. We all boarded the buses at 8:00 am with only our swim suits, goggles, and swim caps-that’s it-it felt a little strange to be without your cell phone and sandals much less no shirt, shorts etc. but off we went to the start 2 miles up the highway.

We arrived at Lani’s which has many famous surf breaks nearby for a walk down the beautiful sandy beach where we all found a nice set of steps in the shade leading down from an ocean front beach house for a 45 minute wait till race start. Rachel brought the only water bottle and Noe had a caffeine loaded, Cliff Bar BLOKS to share. I was thankful for the water but I didn’t need any more “energy”-the 400 people gathered on the small beach had plenty enough to spare.

The water conditions were flat with the little bit of wind blowing generally in the direction of our course start which was good as the water current generally follows the wind. We would need all the help we could get for what would be a 1.9 mile swim that would take, by my calculations, 45 minutes to 1 hour of hard swimming!! We entered the water as a group at 8:30 and swam straight out to the starting buoy 200 yards offshore or so. The water temp was perfect and visibility was very clear-all great conditions.

At 8:55 all 400 of us entered the water and created a 200 yard line from the shoreline out to the starting buoy where everybody anticipated the start facing generally toward Pua’ena Point. We had observed the water patrol placing the first buoy far off in the distance very near the shoreline and found that to be really “curious”. There was an obvious breaking wave outside of this buoy location making us wonder why they were positioning the buoy there-we soon found out!! Rachel and I had decided the night before that we would draft each other for the long swim with me staying on her left side as I breathe to my right and therefore could keep her in sight. I swim a little faster than Rachel also so I could keep the swimmers to my left from barging over the top of her at the start. Those tactics worked perfectly for the entire race which made the the 2300 swim strokes go fast and helped me from meandering off course. A swimmer asked when they were going to start the race and almost immediately a loud horn sounded, a sea of bubbles appeared around me and off we went. Despite all the turbulence, I could see Rachel’s Xtera branded swim suit easily as well as the bright yellow swim caps they gave us at check in so all systems were “go”.

As we approached the first buoy located near shore we encountered the water patrol of County Lifeguards directing us inside and towards shore with “loud encouragement” and arm waving you could not mistake. Rachel and I stopped briefly and said, “Oh well” to each other and headed into the shallow water which sometimes was no more than 18” deep. We swam as best we could while small breaking waves and swell washed over us. I’m still trying to figure out if they did this to make the race even harder or to avoid a bigger danger outside of this area. No-one ever figured this out.

The rest of the race was typical but longer than the others I have done at 1.2m. I never lacked for power when I needed it thanks to coach Dave’s hard workouts and our open water practices on the weekends. Rachel and I were able to hang together the entire race and finished with a lot of swimmers that seemed to be hitting the breaks after we rounded the final triangle buoy and headed into shore for the finish. We passed one bubble of swimmers after the other and exited the water. I heard my wife’s voice immediately screaming my name followed by Susan, Noe and the rest of the gang. We all had a great race and the race results for our very small group speak for themselves!

Noe and Taylor finished 2nd and 3rd women out of the water OVERALL and default were winners of their age groups! Susan and Ed finished first place in their age groups and only 1.5 minutes behind Taylor and Noe. Cindy was 2nd in her age group!! Rachel, Kela, Bridgette and I finished out of the awards but had no problem finishing strong.

The North Shore Swim races will conclude with the Waikiki Rough Water swim in September at 2.4 miles in distance. Even though none of us will participate, our Big Island swimmers, especially those from our Mauna Lani masters group “showed up” and represented” well at this event!!! Congrats to Noe, Susan, Cindy and Taylor-super proud of you guys! Thanks coach Dave for kicking our tails at practice and the “loud encouragement”-no whining or being a slacking dog as you say! Thanks Dave for letting us know also that-Swimmers are SPECIAL!!!!!

Link to Northshore Swim Series Website:

Instagram Link to drone video:

Race Finish With Noe Lani Vargas in purple swim suit:

Race finish with Susan Groff winning her age group-4th person out of the water in this video: