Some 200 competitive swimmers — and perhaps dozens more — had to be plucked from the ocean by rescue crews today as strong currents dogged the 47th annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim.
“It was a very, very, rough swim,” said race director Kaia Hedlund, noting some swimmers couldn’t handle the strong current after the first buoy. “This was not just a little walk-in-the-park race. If you’re going to to do this, you need to train and need to be prepared for the elements.”
Of the approximately 700 people registered for the event, at least 455 finished, said Hedlund. Swimmers who didn’t reach the halfway point by a certain timewere picked up by rescue crews, she said.
Hedlund said every participant was accounted for.
The 2.4-mile race started at Kaimana Beach at 8:30 a.m. and ended at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Those who struggled — or straggled — were picked up by citylifeguards, Honolulu Fire Department crews and volunteers hired by the event organizers.
Shayne Enright, spokeswoman of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, said participants who sought assistance were eithertoo tired to finish the race or to make it to shore on their own.
There were conflicting reports of the number of swimmers assisted. Enright said more than 300 swimmers got help, while event organizers said the numberwas 200 or less.
The Waikiki Roughwater Swim Committee hired water patrol crews that consisted of 17 professional lifeguards equipped with three craft. In addition, morethan 90 kayakers, stand-up paddlers and surfers volunteered to help during the event.
“We take safety very, very seriously,” said Hedlund.
During the race, a 15-year-old swimmer was taken to the hospital by her father after she had an asthma attack.
Paramedics treated and transported a 32-year-old woman in serious condition after she suffered an injury on the reef.
The Honolulu Fire Department brought tired swimmers to shore via rescue boat or Jet Ski.
Spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said the department deployed the Air One helicopter to survey waters for any swimmers who might have drifted off course.
The Weather Service said surf is rising as a south swell began arriving this morning.
Lifeguards estimated the wave heights at 1 to 3 feet.
In 2003, rescuers pulled 361 swimmers from the roughly 2.4-mile race because strong currents possibly related to the passage of Hurricane Jimena near the Big Island.
At the time, race organizers said about 300 people were pulled from the water in the 1984 roughwater swim.