A fitting bookend: The Waikiki Long Distance Rough Water Swim

A fitting bookend: The Waikiki Long Distance Rough Water Swim

Over a beer at Culture Brewing Company in Solana Beach, Steve Royce suggested a swim challenge to bookend my Robben Island swim earlier in the year.

He described the Long Distance Rough Water Swim. In the same location of the more famous Wikiki Roughwater Swim, but at about 5 miles it is double the distance. www.longdistanceswim.com.

As an incentive he said that if I register for the swim, he would swim with me.

After thinking about it for a couple of days, it wasn’t too difficult to say yes to a weekend in Hawaii. Soon we started planning and then it all happened…


San Diego to Honolulu

We caught a morning flight from San Diego and arrived at Honolulu airport before lunch.  We rented a car and soon stopped off for lunch at Nico’s at Pier 38 in the harbor area.  I enjoyed the first of my delicious fish meals while on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Steve Royce

Downtown and Punchbowl

With our hotel check in time hours away, Steve drove us through downtown Honolulu, stopping for me to take photos of the Statue of King Kamehameha I and other noteworthy sights.


The Old US Post Office Honolulu

Post Office

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

We drove up and into the volcanic crater called the Punchbowl (so named because of its shape). The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is where members of the military are honored and laid to rest. It also serves as the location of the memorials for the Pacific Wars.

The peacefulness and beauty of the place was very moving and had a strong impression on me.


Punchbowl rim offered a photo opportunity with tremendous views of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach and Diamondhead (another volcanic crater) in the distance.



Diamond Head

After checking into the Hotel near Kapi’olani Regional Park with a stunning view of Diamondhead, we enjoyed dinner at the Outrigger Canoe Club. You had to know someone who is a member of the club to be admitted. Luckily, I knew Steve, who knew someone.

Dinner was delicious and the two native musicians playing Hawaiian music made it feel that we had arrived.

Diamond Hed

The Outrigger Canoe Club is steeped in history, with photos of Duke Kahanamoku and other locals adorning the walls. It is an active club where members store their surfboards, outrigger boats and enjoy meals in the dining room and patio with a spectacular view of the ocean.

Outrigger Canoe Club

The Ride Around Oahu


The next morning after a stop for breakfast on the way to the north shore, we stopped off at Waimea Bay Beach, Pupukea beach (aka shark beach), Ke Iki Beach, and the famous Banzai Pipeline. We sat on the beach watching surfers catch waves.


After eating fish tacos served from parked trucks in the park opposite Pupukea beach, we drove up the road to the Pu’u Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site. According to Steve the ruins where a temple where ancient Hawaiians sacrificed human to the gods. It was a little eerie, but the view of the valley and ocean below were scenic and made me forget the human sacrifices.

Trash tube
Oahu Beach

Then we drove to the other side of the island via Kaneohe to the very beautiful Kailua Beach. This was our destination for a half mile swim to two small islands off the coast. This was my first swim in Hawaii. The water was warm and had a higher salt content than what I was used to back in San Diego.

Palm Trees

On the drive back to Honolulu, we took the Diamond Head Road and stopped off at Waimano Beach, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve for more photo opportunities.

Diamond Head Road

Hawaiian Sunset

We made it back to the Outrigger Canoe Club in time for dinner and a very beautiful sunset. On the way to dinner someone randomly gave me a lei, which I wore during dinner. The locals call this act of kindness Aloha. After dinner I gave the lei to a young girl sitting at an adjacent table with her family.

Sunset with Swimmers
Hillel and Steve
Welcome to Waikiki

The Swim

The next morning we woke early and got ready for the swim. Remember – the reason for our trip.

Inflating buoy

The 37th annual Hawaiian Long Distance Invitation Rough Water Swim start was right in front of our hotel. Very convenient. After checking in and meeting some of the other 40 swimmers, we were given instructions and soon in the water.

Waikiki Beach

Steve and I came prepared with inflatable buoys to pull behind us, but it soon became apparent that the help of the volunteer kayakers proved to be a blessing. Swimming out to the first buoy marker was not a problem. Swimming about 2 miles into a steady current was a problem, and then turning around at the second buoy we swam into serious choppy waters, another problem. That was difficult enough, but it didn’t prepare me for the last third of a mile.

Swimming towards shore and the finish, it soon became apparent to me that I was not making any progress. In fact, the current was pushing me further out to sea. A volunteer kayaker guided me to shore, but it was an exhausting and humbling experience. A hundred yards from shore, I gave the kayaker, whom I didn’t get to formally meet, a big thank you.

Outrigger Canoe Club

Lunch and Awards

Soon we showered and changed and make it to the Outrigger Canoe club for lunch and the awards presentation.  Steve finished in third place in his age group.  As for me – I finished!

Steve and winners

Heading home

After grabbing our luggage we headed for the airport. We make one stop at the famous Leonard’s Philippine bakery and gorged ourselves on traditional donuts!


After an uneventful flight to San Diego, we drove up I-5 to North County. We were both pleasantly tired when I dropped him off and said good night.

Back Home – the bookend

Landing in SD

The next morning, I shared my swimming adventure and stories with Jeanie. She appreciated the lei I brought for her, and we both enjoyed the chocolate covered macadamia nuts.


A Perfect bookend. The Robben Island swim in February 2019 and the Long Distance Rough Water Swim in Honolulu in October 2019.



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