Linda Kaiser believes everyone should learn how to swim. Her father shared that belief when he took Kaiser and her brothers to Hanauma Bay for lessons about being safe in the water.
"We live on an island surrounded by water, and there is so much to see and experience in the ocean," Kaiser said. "I remember swimming at the Natatorium with other kids."
She was introduced to ocean swimming as an adult, and at the age of 60, Kaiser continues to regularly participate in open-ocean events and is in the water about five days a week — sometimes twice a day.
Kaiser said she enjoys her long-distance swims in Waikiki because of the scenery and serenity. "You can see the ocean bottom, fish and turtles," she said. "Sometimes the dolphins come by, too."
But one of the greatest benefits is camaraderie, she said. "You get to see a lot of people. It’s nice to hang out with swimmers since they seem to have a more relaxed attitude. It’s hard to be uptight when you are in the ocean — it’s very meditative," Kaiser said.
41st Annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim:
When: 9 a.m. Monday
Ocean swimming for fun, fitness and as a serious sport has been growing in Hawaii, thanks in part to the popularity of triathlons that include a swimming segment and other competitions such as the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, which annually draws 1,000 participants ranging in age from 10 to 80.
Valisa Saunders, 56, a member of the Waikiki Swim Club, said the group has seen a steady increase in membership, especially since starting a website that has helped connect the ocean-swimming community.
The club has about 150 members, including teenagers and one person in his 90s.
Swimming is a good low-impact fitness option for people with joint problems or bad knees, according to Rey Ronquilio, athletic director and personal trainer at the Honolulu Club.
"Swimming is a great form of exercise, but not necessarily by itself. If you are looking to build muscle mass or boost metabolism, it might not be the best form of exercise," he said.
Joy Schoenecker, 71, swims with Kaiser twice a week. "I don’t swim with a group, so it was intimidating to go out by myself," she said. "I learned to swim about 10 years ago because I wanted to do a triathlon. I had 10 weeks to learn how to swim. I ended up winning for my age group, which surprised me."
Schoenecker plans to participate for the first time in Monday’s Waikiki Roughwater Swim. "I’ve never done a 2 1/2-mile swim. I’m trying to build up my endurance and just do it," she said.
WHEN ASSISTING newcomers to the Waikiki Swim Club, Saunders said, she tempers her enthusiasm for the sport with a dose of common-sense safety.
"One doesn’t need to be a collegiate swimmer to join us, but they should be comfortable swimming 2 miles in 75 minutes. And we don’t want people scrapped up on the reef," she said.
"Even a fast swimmer, not familiar with ocean swimming, should not be out there without guidance about reefs, currents, waves, boats, jellyfish and other wildlife encounters, and they should never swim alone in the open ocean."
OCEAN SWIMMING SAFETY TIPS
» Swim in areas with lifeguards.
Source: Honolulu Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division
Ala Moana is a good place to start training, she said. During summer months, the North Shore courses are optimal, as are Waikiki, Hanauma Bay and Kailua Beach.
"It’s a great lifelong sport, besides the shoulder problems that can occur due to poor technique," said Saunders, who recently won her age group at the North Shore Challenge.
"It’s best to start in a pool. When swimming, technique is important. It makes swimming easier and more efficient and helps to prevent injury. Interval training also helps increase speed. Swimming is not a natural thing for people. Getting further stroke instruction and training with a masters swimming group is the best way to really get in shape and build speed and endurance."
Kathy Quinn, 69, also with the Waikiki Swim Club, also plans to participate in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. "It’s one of the races that allows the use of a snorkel and mask. It’s great because you miss so much when you need to turn your head from side to side to breathe," she said.
Although Quinn, a previous age-group winner in the event, prefers to check out the scenery along the way, most swimmers race without a snorkel and mask because it can slow you down, she explained.
"It’s lots of fun," she said. "Last time, I saw lots of dolphins below."
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