Dan Britzmann, president of the Swim Kaua‘i Aquatics, said just before the recent Bill Smith Invitational Swim Meet on O‘ahu that SKA coach Billy Brown, “just for kicks,” swam from Moloka‘i to Maui before catching a plane to O‘ahu to meet the SKA swimmers.
Brown made the solo swim in 3:59, Britzmann said.
“He dropped into the Pailolo Channel at 6:39 on Friday morning to picture-perfect conditions, expecting a five- to six-hour ‘sufferfest,’” Britzmann said in an email. “When told he was on pace for a four-hour finish, Coach Billy turned it into Phelps mode and actually swam faster in the second half of the crossing compared to the first half.”
Britzmann said that in 1993, Carl Kawauchi swam across the Pailolo Channel in the reverse Maui to Moloka‘i direction — a “first” record which was not duplicated in nearly two decades before Brown eclipsed the feat Friday.
According to the Hawai‘i Swim website, Kawauchi swam the Pailolo Channel, a distance of 8.5 miles, from Maui to Moloka‘i in four hours, 45 minutes, starting on Sept. 9, 2009, at 6 a.m. and finishing after 10 a.m. This was his second swim since becoming the first swimmer to accomplish the feat in 1993.
“I hear they closed Honolua and the adjoining bay at 10 a.m. due to tiger sharks feeding the area, so the sharks were probably there when I started,” Kawauchi said on the Hawai‘i Swim website of his 2009 feat. “I’m glad I didn’t see them.”
Brown, according to the Hawai‘i Swim website, attempted the swim in 2006, although no time standards were available for the 8.5-mile attempt. Friday was Brown’s second attempt, starting this time from Moloka‘i and ending on Maui.
The first Maui-to-Moloka‘i crossing was done by Jim Caldwell in 1973, although the Hawai‘i Swim website has no recorded time.
Kawauchi, who was inducted to the Hawai‘i Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005, said the Pailolo Channel was the most grueling crossing.
Britzmann said Kawauchi sponsored Brown for the SKA coach’s first channel crossing, a Maui-to-Lanai swim, in 2003 where fellow channel swimmer Mike Spaulding escorted Brown in his boat to record the crossing.
Spaulding and Brown were part of the record-setting in a relay to be the first to conquer the Kaieiewaho Channel in the 72-mile O‘ahu-to-Kaua‘i swim.
Britzmann said Brown didn’t even see a fish the entire way over until a group of dolphins showed up five minutes after his swim.
The SKA president said Brown has swum several channel swims in the “right” direction and also swam the Straits of Gibraltor in 2011.
“A great weekend all around for Kaua‘i swimmers,” Britzmann said.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.