Mark Baker, an active triathlete and father of 3 swimmers from Honolulu who spearheaded the first Aulea Swim Club Au’au Channel crossing between Lanai and Maui.

This weekend, he met 9 swimmers and a kayaker at the base of Diamond Head volcano on Oahu for a training swim. With the surf moderately sized, everyone was able to get out without any difficulty including the kayaker without losing any of their hydration.

The winds were slightly easterly pushing the kayak ahead of us. We swam in two groups, the faster group did some doubling back and back-and-forth to keep the timing the same for our liquid stops,” explained Baker.

At the one-hour point we had an incredible encounter. Everyone will have their own version of this I am sure. And the versions are likely to get better and better with time.

I swam towards the kayak to get my water bottle and I saw a large slow moving dark shadow below me. Then I heard Alex say, ‘Look everybody, it’s a monk seal!’ A moment later I heard Katie yell, ‘It’s a shark!’ While this was going on I was looking at two animals. One was big and slow. It actually came up to the surface and looked like it rolled over to entertain us. The other animal was unmistakable. It was a shark, sleek and skinny.

When I first saw it, it looked like it was swimming towards the seal. Then the monk seal went up to the surface and the shark stayed down. The shark looked inquisitive and it did not look threatening. I was very impressed with all the swimmers. Everyone stayed very calm. It is difficult to be certain how long we got to watch them for. Now it seems so short that I wonder if I was dreaming

The swimmers turned back after the encounter and returned to their start point 2 hours 21 minutes later.

Baker easily identified the monk seal, but the identification of the shark was not quite so easy even in the clear waters off Waikiki Beach. “The most distinctive thing I saw was the slender body with a top portion of the tail fin much longer than the bottom portion. I was too far away to discern fins being white or dark. There are other types of the reef sharks: gray, black tipped, and others.

After getting home I made some phone calls. I spoke to the person at the monk seal reporting line. A woman named Tasha appreciated my reporting the monk seal. She answered some questions about sharks. She tells me the white tipped reef sharks are very curious, more so than the others. This particular shark had that demeanor of curiosity. She told me that in Waikiki there are only rare sighting of tigers.

I’m thankful for that. I expect the monk seal is even more thankful than I am.

The swimmers included Jaek Horner (age 11), Cameron Lyon (13), Eric (14), Celia (12), Skyler Webb (10), Nicholas Zachmeier (16), Katie DeMieri (44), Alex Webb (45), Mark Baker (56), and paddler Bryan Zachmeier (53).

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