I don't know if you've ever been to a rodeo or watched one on tv. I find the bull riders fascinating. Tough, compact cowboys in their jeans, chaps, hats, and belt buckles. And then there are the bulls, sitting in a pen looking like they are just there for a Sunday afternoon chat. The cowboys lean over the rail and discuss the animals, some of them have a reputation that far precedes them. However, when the cowboys look at them from the distance perhaps they seem less large, less powerful, and maybe just maybe they can be tamed for the famed 8 seconds.
Then comes the real test for both the cowboy and the animal. They are penned together. The bull has been made extremely uncomfortable, small pen and a rope strapped around their sensitive areas. Then there is this human getting ready to strap themselves to their back. Their backs get raised and the bulls prepare for battle. I can imagine that all they want is to go back to Sunday chatting with their other bull friends. The cowboys now get that up close and personal look at the animal that not so long ago looked a little bit docile. Then the decision comes, do they get on the animal and ride or do they reconsider. Perhaps cowboys can't have a second thought otherwise they would never strap themselves to massive angry animal with it's goods in a sling. The cowboys get on the bull in that same little pen and they feel the power as they straddle the animal. Quickly and with purpose they tie themselves in, put their hand to their hat and give the nod.
8 seconds. The cowboy and the bull connected in undulating power. 8 seconds. That is all it takes to become a champion.
I guess I felt a little like the cowboy at the rodeo as I've spent the last few days looking at the Molokai Channel in it's corral. Sure it looked big, sure it looked powerful, but maybe I could ride it for those 8 seconds. Standing on the beach in the equivalent of my jeans, chapts, hat, and belt buckle, I could see the power of the Molokai Channel. Standing on the beach with a rare monk seal, I thought to myself "that is a good omen. Those seals are rare." As I watched it slink back into the water, I took a breath and waited for the right moment to strap myself in for what was looking to be a very interesting ride. The waves were powerful as was the wind. However, they would be at my back and providing aid still 15-17mph winds to start can be pretty unnerving.
The crew signaled their readiness and my time to start. I strode into the ocean with purpose like the cowboy getting into the pen. And I started my job of one stroke in front of the other. I had my kayaker by my side. It quickly became apparent though that the kayaker wasn't going to be able to stay in the water due to the winds. They were being blown all over and unable to keep a straight heading. At the first feeding (30 minutes), the kayaker was pulled. Even before this time, something started to feel off for me. It wasn't sea sickness, it wasn't swim stroke issues, it wasn't really even in my head. You know the gut feeling that you get that you are headed in the wrong direction or perhaps that tingly sensation that you shouldn't be where you are now. That is what I felt. At an hour, I tried to explain this to my crew. They rightfully urged me on. Another 30 minutes went by and I felt a little bit more comfortable. The water was big and it was providing a push (note: average wave height was 5-7 feet according to my pilot). It was a live animal with it's own mind and purpose. I just had to adjust so that I could maximize the waves. Still that niggling sensation wasn't quite gone. However, my feedings weren't going great. I couldn't get the feeds down. It was like my throat closed up as I tried to chug the feeds. Then 2 hrs into the swim at the next feeding, I started to vomit and dry heave. It was uncontrollable. It was then that I knew that today wasn't my day. Without feeds, I wouldn't be able to continue for the needed 13-16 hours. Plus that feeling had me on edge. There are times to push those feelings aside and times to listen. This was my time to listen.
I didn't make my 8 seconds. I'm not the champion this time. However, I did get on the bull. I learned about Molokai. I know things to do better next time. And there will be a next time.
Thank you to all my new Hawaiian friends who provided amazing knowledge and guidance on when, where and how to tackle the channel. Thank you to Linda, Bob, Mike, Noah, Mark, Sherry, Joy, and Dudley.
And again thank you to all my crew here and at home that help make this sport a possibility for me.Tags: Hawaii, Molokai Channel