One of the most appreciated compliments received by any athlete is from one’s own peers. The Class of 2018 honorees in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame represent the largest group of individuals to be inducted in a single year over the institution’s history.
Each one of this year’s inductees are not only remarkable athletes who have completed incredible feats in the open water, but they are also exceptional humans who lead inspirational lives on dryland. Some have achieved greatness in competitive events, some in solo channel crossings, some in unprecedented marathon swims. While their greatest swims are publicly well-known, it is the relentless dedication and numerous hours they put in hard, solitary training year after year that enable them to complete their swims in lakes, river, seas and oceans around the world.
The honorees are selected annually by a vote of their peers who include Nick Adams, Tamara Bruce, Penny Dean, Yuko Matsuzaki, David O’Brien, Skip Storch, Valerio Valli, Forrest Nelson, David Barra, Dr. Osama Ahmed Momtaz, Michael P. Read, MBE, Peter Bales, Elizabeth Fry, Marcella MacDonald, DPM, Captain Tim Johnson, Vojislav Mijić, Ricardo Ratto, Dr. Jane Katz, Valerie Parsons, Lynn Blouin, Kathrin Lammers, Sally Minty-Gravett, MBE, Evan Morrison, Philip Rush, Dan Simonelli, Ben Barham, Penny Palfrey, Carol Sing, Natalya Pankina, Petar Stoychev, Silvia Dalotto, Stéphane Lecat, Kevin Murphy, Greg Streppel, Peter van Vooren, Jacques Tuset, Attila Mányoki, and John York.
The Class of 2018 includes one of the world’s most prolific warm-water channel swimmers Linda Kaiser of Honolulu. She probably has encountered more sharks on her channel swims in Hawaii – especially if you include sharks larger and longer than her – than anyone else in the world.
Kaiser has crossed the following channels in Hawaii under the tropical sun among many sharks:
Hawaiian Channel #1: 8.8-mile (14.1 km) Auau Channel (Lanai to Maui) in 1989 in 5 hours 11 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #2: 8.4-mile (13.5 km) Pailolo Channel (Maui to Molokai) in 1990 in 4 hours 47 minutes [first woman]
Hawaiian Channel #3: 9.3-mile (14.9 km) Kalohi Channel (Molokai to Lanai) in 1991 in 4 hours 30 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #4: 7-mile (11.2 km) Alalakeiki Channel (Maui to Kahoolawe) in 2001 in 3 hours 30 minutes [first woman/unprecedented direction]
Hawaiian Channel #5: 17-mile (27.3 km) Kaulakahi Channel (Kauai to Niihau) in 2003 in 10 hours 45 minutes [first person/first woman]
Hawaiian Channel #6: 17-mile (27.3 km) Kealaikahiki Channel (Kahoolawe to Lanai) in 2005 in 11 hours 53 minutes [first person/first woman]
Hawaiian Channel #7: 26-mile (42 km) Kaiwi Channel (Molokai Molokai to Oahu) in 2007 in 15 hours 0 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #8: 30-mile (48.2 km) Alenuihaha Channel (Hawaii to Maui) in 2009 in 16 hours 10 minutes
Hawaiian Channel #9: 72-mile (115.8 km) Kaieiewaho Channel six-person relay (Oahu to Kauai) in 2010 in 47 hours 55 minutes
Steven Munatones observed, “Linda has seen it all during her nine channel crossings throughout the state of Hawaii – lots of sharks, innumerable Portuguese man o war wounds, huge surf, pounding waves, massive ocean swells, relentless sun, beautiful star-filled nights in the middle of the largest ocean in the world, tropical reefs, and marine life from dolphins to whales.”
Kaiser knows about the inherent risks in the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaiian islands. “You’ve got to respect the ocean. You’ve got to come prepared. If you’re not serious, and you’re not focused on what you’re doing, you’re bound to have trouble. The ocean doesn’t put up with any wimps.”
Kaiser knows well. It was during her 1990 Pailolo Channel swim from Maui to Molokai when she noticed a dark shape in the water beneath her. She said the shape was “no larger than a fist at first, but was growing quickly and racing straight [up to the surface] All of sudden I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a shark.’ He just kept coming straight up, and I said to myself, ‘Ooh, this may not be good.'”
But after the 12-foot shark circled her a few times, the shark lost interest. Typically, that kind of scare did not slow her down.
“[Finishing a channel swim] is a great feeling of accomplishment. I don’t do it for anybody else. I do it for me.”
“Her track record of success in the channels, her willingness to give back to the sport, and her genuine helpfulness in volunteering for ocean swims of all distances and types are exactly the kind of role model that is great for the sport,” says Munatones. “Linda is not challenged by cold water or threatened by hypothermia, but she does swim for incredibly long distances and for long periods, always with the threat of shark encounters and painful jellyfish and rough conditions where the ocean swells are truly unlike few places on Earth. She has long volunteered for the Kaiwi Channel Swimmers Association, is available to help any and all channel swimmers who come to Hawaii, and is always lending a hand in all kinds of local events like the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.
She is a true heroine who has been a stalwart in the sport since the 1980s.”
It is her role not as a swimmer, but as an advisor, mentor and Kaiwi Channel Swimmers Association administrator why the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inducted her as an Honor Administrator.
She discussed her career to date:
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How does it feel to be inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame?
Linda Kaiser: Being inducted into the IMSHOF has been a dream for a long time. This is awesome.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What was the most satisfying swim of your career?
Linda Kaiser: My most satisfying swim was also the toughest mentally and that was the swim from Big Island [of Hawaii] to Maui. The swim was after Mike Spalding had been bitten by a cookie cutter shark. I was on his escort boat, up close, to the action. That was the last channel that I did solo and it was very intimidating thinking about Mike and having small squid pinging off me all night and lots of sharks around during the day.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Can you describe some of your closest shark encounters?
Linda Kaiser: Sharks are in the ocean. We swimmers are just passing through and must ask permission of the sharks to do so. I have seen many sharks. The one that I will never forget is the one that came up in an instant while doing the Oahu-to-Kauai relay.
I was swimming at the end of my round and Randy Brown was next. I was watching him get ready: putting on his suit and stretching while my head was in the water. Then I took a breath and noticed Randy had his goggles on. My face went back in the water and the shark with eyes and teeth was directly under me, probably 10 feet down. I didn’t see its body, it was straight up and down. I learned later it was a tiger shark because of its flat nose area. It didn’t scare me so much as it startled me. It wasn’t there, I took a breathe, and it was there. I levitated out of the water and sprinted to the boat ladder, telling everyone ‘SHARK!’
Randy had to get in and swim..I was OUT. Had that beast wanted to eat me, he surely could have. Its head was wider than my hips and one bite and I would have been in serious trouble. But he disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. I see that image to this day.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Can you describe your typical weekly schedule, including your swimming workouts and your dryland training, during your heyday of swimming?
Linda Kaiser: I was a workout junkie back in the day. I would work and swim and do dryland, eat and sleep. I had no social life. I would do a pool workout three times per week of 2,500-3,000 yards. Then once per week of open water swimming of 3-4 miles. Weekends were serious ocean miles, working up to a distance equal to half the channel distance on Saturday and on Sunday half of Saturday’s mileage.
I peaked with two-a-days a few months from the channel swim date. I didn’t taper much, knowing it was a good chance that we wouldn’t be able to swim on the day chosen due to weather conditions.
I still do modified crossfit workouts three times per week. I don’t do anything to stress my bad knees and do light shoulder work. I just think before I do anything. I’m fine with modifying any workout. I have a crossfit gym in my backyard, so I can work out anytime that I have extra time.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How are you feeling nowadays?
Linda Kaiser: I have Stage 4 cancer of the pluera cavity (the space between lung and rib). It is synovial sarcoma. This type of cancer is rare, but is never found in the lung area. It is a cancer of soft and connective tissue found mostly in men under 40. Go figure. I am on round 6 of chemotherapy. I will have a CT scan after this round to see what has happened. I had a CT scan after the third round and the four masses had shrunk. There is a lot to discuss, but it just depends on what the scan shows. I am still swimming, 3,000 – 4,000 yards about 3-4 times a week, mostly in the pool. I’m so slow and it is frustrating, but I’m swimming.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Can you describe each of your channel swims in Hawaii?
Linda Kaiser: I loved every minute of every channel swim. I loved the training for them the most. I loved having a goal and then achieving that goal, knowing that it was totally up to me to achieve or fail.
Except for the 115.8 km relay from Oahu to Kauai, that was a long miserable swim. We all got stung relentlessly. It wasn’t fun. Did I mention it was long [47 hours 55 minutes]?
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What were your favorite foods and drinks to take during your channel swims?
Linda Kaiser: You need to know that I was channel swimming before GPS and all the nifty nutrition items available today. We stood onshore of one island and said I want to swim to that island and we followed the boat to get there. We never thought of kayakers back then.
It was up to the boat captain to decide where we would go. I would pop a few Coca-Colas the night before and that is what we used. Sometimes some Snickers Bars. I remember the first time that I swam with Mike Spalding from the islands of Maui to Molokai. He had a big mango smoothie and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told him we were swimming, not having a picnic.
Later, Hammer Nutrition came along. They had a drink called Perpetuum that worked really well for me, even though I didn’t like the taste. I used it for all my swims and added Carbo Pro to it. I had discovered early on that I had to do liquid energy. My stomach couldn’t handle anything solid.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: You selflessly help a lot of people who do channel swims in Hawaii. Have any of them stood out for any reason?
Linda Kaiser: Steve Redmond is a standout. He is such a kind and humble person. He and his wife were wonderful to have. Liz Fry and Yesenia Cabrera from Guatemala were also memorable. Living on an island, we get a very limited amount of swimmers coming to visit. I totally enjoy meeting everyone. Thanks to the Oceans Seven, I have the opportunity to meet swimmers I have only read about. It is such a thrill to ‘talk story’ and exchange ideas on channel swimming.
Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What kinds of things did you ideally recommend people prepare for when they visit Hawaii for a channel swim?
Linda Kaiser: Swimmers need to know that our water is going to be hot for them. We average 80°F (26°C). Some cold water swimmers have a difficult time adjusting. I recommend a 10-day window to acclimate and to pick the best day weatherwise to swim. Wind will be your worst enemy, then currents, jellyfish and sharks.
Kaiser has proven herself to be one of the world’s most adventurous marathon swimmers and is now inducted in both the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. The 66-year-old was always renowned in the Hawaiian island swimming community and is now recognized globally as a volunteer administrator and swimmer who has long faced venomous jellyfish and sharks.
“Linda and the other new members of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame emulate those exceptional 269 forerunners already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Since the class of 1963, our marathon swimming inductees from around the world have received the ultimate marathon swimming recognition. They have been immortalized with their names inscribed on the IMSHOF Sea Goddess, our ‘symbol of the sea’,” explained Chairman Christopher Guesdon.
“When Captain Matthew Webb RN conquered the English Channel in 1875 nobody would have thought such a worldwide movement of marathon swimming would be born and where ethics and morals are paramount in pursuit of a successful marathon. The induction ceremony will be held on March 31st 2018 at The Chapel, Beaumont Estate, Old Windsor, UK.”
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