Matt & Manoa Buckman, Heroes In The Ocean
Escort pilot Matt Buckman and his co-pilot, son and escort kayaker Manoa Buckman know the waters and channels around the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Maui. They know the waters very, very well.
And they have proven themselves as lifesavers time and time again.
The Buckmans have escorted and saved channel swimmers when there have been close shark encounters [see video about with Ranie Pearce] and actual shark attacks in the water [with Brazilian swimmer Adherbal de Oliveira].
Buckman describes one of the most recent attacks, “I was the captain and my son Manoa was on the kayak when another cookiecutter shark hit a swimmer, Adherbal de Oliveira. The swimmer jumped up on the kayak and laid down while Manoa put his feet in the water so they wouldn’t tip over. I was about 60 feet in front of them and backed up swiftly. We pulled the swimmer aboard; Manoa fell off the kayak in the transfer, but he remained very calm.
We know that the cookie cutters are a parasite and an attack shark. They take a small bite (chunk) and speed back down to the depths so Manoa was not concerned [about its return].
We put a tourniquet on the swimmer’s thigh above the wound, wrapped it in a towel, and blazed into shore with the EMT’s standing by the boat ramp. We can only go as fast as the sea conditions allow us, otherwise the boat and the occupants would get beat up. The swimmer will make a full recovery.”
International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Swimmer Linda Kaiser of the Molokai Channel Swimmers Association tells the back story when Cameron Bellamy and Steve Walker did a tandem crossing of the Molokai Channel with the Buckman’s as escort pilots back in 2017. “Their escort boat was maybe a mile to mile and a half out from Oahu. But with Steve only able to use one arm, Steve was slower than Cameron and told Cameron to go into shore [and make the crossing]. Then the current pushed Steve a bit farther west before he could get into shore. Cameron swam in with his kayaker and the escort boat stayed with Steve.
Cameron and Steve both started together at Papohaku Beach on Molokai at 9:26 pm. They both lost their swim caps and goggles in the big surf at the start. Finding their goggles was easy because of the lights attached, but their swim caps were sacrificed. There was a nasty current against them until around 7:00 am and they made around 1 mph. But the current changed and they were able to get up to speed. The winds were very calm. We had howling winds until Friday afternoon and winds were forecast to pick up Monday, so they had to jump on this short window.
Cameron finished after 17 hours 1 minute at Sandy Beach [on Oahu]. The lifeguards announced his arrival and all the beach goers cheered him in. His right side was covered in welts from Portuguese man o war stings. Steve finished after 18 hours 8 minutes swimming with only one arm during the last two hours. He missed arriving on Sandy Beach, but he swam into Eternity Beach, just west of Halona blowhole. The beach goers there were very impressed with his accomplishment. Harry Huffaker was on hand to greet both swimmers.
A 7-foot tiger shark was seen, but it chose to check them out and kept going. Other sharks were seen, but it was too deep to identify the species.”
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