Sunday, August 11, 2019

Team Denise Tackles Tsugaru

Courtesy of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Team Denise from Ireland completed a 19.5 km crossing from Honshu to Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan.

The Irish team of Peter, Denise, Saskia, Sandra, James and Enda is one of the few non-Japanese relay teams to have made the Oceans Seven crossing, finishing in 16 hours 37 minutes 45 seconds on August 6th in the 22℃ water.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, August 5, 2019

Nathalie Pohl Survives, Swims And Smiles Across Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Masahide Sano of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Nathalie Pohl made it safely to the start of her Tsugaru Channel crossing this morning at 2:16 am on the Kodomari peninsula in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan.

10 hours 9 minutes 40 seconds later, she made it safely and successfully across the channel to the shores of Hokkaido.

Her smile and relief were palpable.

Guided by Adam Walker and coach Joshua Neloh, Pohl had one of the most unusual and unfortunate experiences among channel swimmers in recent times.

Last August en route to her start on the Kodomari peninsula, her escort boat captain - who had escorted several dozens of swimmers and relays across the Tsugaru Channel and fishes in its waters as his primary job - crashed his boat into unseen rocks near the shore.

Walker wrote, "I can’t believe I’m writing this...the swim didn’t go ahead for Nathalie as the boat crashed into rocks on route to the start. Everyone is ok, if not slightly bruised and in shock. Nathalie banged her side and has rib pain so we need to check her out. The pilot was unconscious for a few minutes, but fortunately I was able to wake him up. He has gone off in an ambulance, he hurt his collarbone and has gone to hospital. The boat had to be towed.

Of course, the swim is cancelled and of course very disappointed for Nathalie
."

Walker later updated his report from the accident, "Nathalie ribs were x-rayed in Japan and shows a bad bruised, but no break. The pilot has a broken collarbone and will undergo surgery in a few days."

Steven Munatones recalled speaking with Pohl's father, "Nathalie, Coach Neloh and her father were really - and rightly - very shook up and upset. It was quite an unexpected - and unheard of - accident. But they started planning for her return and a successful crossing right away."

A year later, Pohl has every right to be proud of her return and her 10 hour 9 minute crossing of the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association and Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

Kieron Palframan Successfully Crosses Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Masahide Sano of Channel Swim Japan, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

South African extreme swimmer Kieron Palframan completed a very fast 8 hour 41 minute 5 second crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan. He started in Kodomari on Honshu and finished on the shores of Hokkaido.

Copyright © 2008 – 2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

John Batchelder‎'s Crossing For Rachel's Challenge

Courtesy of WOWSA, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

The Columbine High School massacre was an American school shooting in 1999 where 10 students and a teacher were killed and 21 students were injured by fellow gun-toting students.

‎John Batchelder‎, one of the most prolific marathon swimmers in the world today, is a alumnus of Columbine High School (Class of 1999).

He writes about the cross section of his memories of the massacre in Colorado and his own channel swimming aspirations across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan. "I am dedicating my 2020 Tsugaru Channel Swim in remembrance of all those affected by senseless violence, particularly those from my Columbine High School family. It’s been 20 years, but I still have clear memories of that fateful day on April 20th 1999 and the days that followed, and I know I’m not alone.

To this end, I'm raising money for Rachel's Challenge. Rachel Scott was one of my classmates whose life was tragically cut short, but I’m happy to see her memory has become the foundation for an organization to help make the world a better place.

Rachel’s Challenge exists to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture change in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. Please help me support a great cause. Every little bit helps
."

Batchelder‎, whose butterfly exploits raised his marathon swimming profile worldwide, explained about his charitable efforts and his fundraiser for Rachel's Challenge. "Why Tsugaru?

Well, I thought about tying it to one of my swims already planned this year, but none felt appropriate. Then I went back to where I was 20 years ago. Back in high school I got caught up in the anime craze, falling in love with some of the iconic anime movies and series of the time, especially Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and through that I fell in love with all of Japanese culture as a whole.

Japan was the first foreign country I ever visited, not counting a couple brief stops in Canada, and I absolutely loved my time there. It’s because of this I decided that the swim needed to be Tsugaru, as that is my best way of reconnecting with my past. Unfortunately that means waiting over a year for the swim, as I’m already committed to a full schedule this year, but that’s the way it goes
."



To donate and for more information, visit here.

Copyright © 2008-2019 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thomas Pembroke Achieves The Oceans Seven

Courtesy of WOWSA, Cook Strait, New Zealand.

It is done.

Over the last five years, Thomas Pembroke has been determined to swim across channels around the world while helping to raise money for a variety of worthwhile causes.

Pembroke became the second Australian, the 13th person in history, and the youngest person to achieve the Oceans Seven with last Friday's crossing of the Cook Strait.

Over the course of his career, the personable 29-year-old Sydney resident and teacher has accomplished the following:

* July 2013: he completed a 33.8 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France to 14 hours 59 minutes
* September 2015: he completed a 35 km crossing of the North Channel from Northern Ireland to Scotland in 12 hours 10 minutes as a fundraiser to benefit disabled children in Papua New Guinea
* June 2016: he completed a 45 km crossing of the Molokai Channel from Molokai to Oahu in Hawaii in 15 hours 27 minutes which he swam to benefit Kiss Goodbye to MS
* June 2016: he completed a 32.3 km crossing of the Catalina Channel from Santa Catalina Island to the Southern California mainland in 12 hours 2 minutes with dolphins swimming around him
* June 2017: he completed a 33.8 km crossing of the English Channel from England to France in 15 hours 19 minutes
* October 2017: he attempted a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan, starting on Honshu, but he was pulled after 11 hours 12 minutes before reaching his goal in Hokkaido
* May 2018: he completed a 14.4 km tandem crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa Island in Spain to Perejil Island in Morocco in 4 hours 18 minutes together with Marty Filipowski, Mark Mallison, and Victor Pineiro
* August 2018: he completed a 19.5 km crossing of the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido in northern Japan in 15 hours 1 minute
* December 2018: he completed a 23 km crossing of the Cook Strait from North Island to South Island in New Zealand in 6 hours 57 minutes to complete the Oceans Seven

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thomas Pembroke Faced Constant Winds And Waves

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya, Ocean Navi, Japan.

Thomas Pembroke of Australia gave it a valiant attempt across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan, but the constant winds and unrelenting waves were just too much today. He got out of the turbulent channel at 5:12 pm, 11 hours 12 minutes from the start on Honshu and 8 km from his intended goal in Hokkaido.

Videos and photos of his swim are posted at Channel Swim Japan.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, December 24, 2018

Toshio Tominaga Shows The Benefits Of Swimming























Graph courtesy of CNN.

"The unprecedented demographic trends currently underway in Japan are one clear indicator how important swimming can be for the overall health and wellness of every society and country," says Steven Munatones.

"The benefits of swimming are so evident in one's youth and middle-age, but the lifelong benefits of swimming in one's older years is so much more significant. Once everyone learns how to swim and is pool-safe and open water-safe, swimming is a great way to relax, stay fit, and be well for a lifetime. Swimming is a low-impact activity that has many physical and mental health benefits."

Where the benefits of swimming and the aging of society meet in an unprecedented manner is Japan.

Japan's population peaked in 2008 at 128,083,960 people. But as the number of births fell below the number of deaths, Japan is experiencing its biggest natural population decline since 1899 when records began. Japan's population is currently at 124 million this year - but is expected to decrease to 88 million by 2065 and 42 million by 2110 as its population continues to decline by 1 million people every year according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates.

The demographic trends are undeniable. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported that the number of births dipped under 1 million babies for the third consecutive year while the number of deaths in 2018 was 1.369 million. Since 2013, more than 20% of Japan's population is over the age of 65 and that figure is forecasted to rise above 40% by 2060 while Japanese has an average life expectancy of 85 years as of 2016 (it was 81.25 as of 2006).

Concurrently, there are many swimming pools and thousands of kilometers of swimmable coastlines throughout Japan in a country where swimming is taught young. In 1955, the Shiun-maru ferry sunk in Japan after colliding with the Uko-maru ferry in a thick fog. Among the 168 people who died in the waters of the Seto Inland Sea, 100 elementary and junior high school students drowned.

Their deaths ultimately led the Japanese government to start a nationwide program of building pools and teaching swimming in public schools. Because most schools did not have a swimming pool on campus before the 1960s, Japan went on a pool building spree with over 86% of elementary schools, 73% of junior high schools and over 64% of high schools with pools with mandatory swimming instruction in school.

As a result, Japan has very successfully decreased the number of its drowning tragedies with the swimming policy [see here]. But, also very importantly, the collective swimming experience and abilities of the average Japanese citizen has led to a boom of swimming in their senior years.

One example is Toshio Tominaga (富永俊夫 in Japanese) who played water polo and swam in elementary and high school. Tominaga was a competitive swimmer, but then he began his professional career at a Japanese electronics corporation and took off from his competition for several decades.



As the intervening decades passed, Tominaga stayed in good shape, but he had to dramatically reduce the number of hours that he trained in a pool. But after retirement at the age of 62, Tominaga took to the oceans surrounding Japan and started to make up for lost time - staying healthy and staying in shape.

For years, he did numerous ocean swims from Okinawa in southern Japan and occasionally traveled overseas to swim in the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey in 2009 and an attempt across the English Channel in 2013. But the most difficult ocean swim in Japan, the Tsugaru Channel, was one of his life's goals. He trained and got himself physically and mentally prepared. He studied the logistics and different strategies of crossing the technically difficult 19.5 km channel.

In 2016 in northern Japan, the 73-year-old retiree finally achieved his dream swim.

"Tominaga-san had marvelous conditions as he started from Gongenzaki Cape on Aomori Prefecture [shown on left] on the main Japanese island of Honshu," explained Steven Munatones. "With Captain Mizushima at the helm, he started much later than other Tsugaru Channel swimmers, entering the water after 7 am."

Then he started to head north towards Hokkaido with a slight bearing just west of his goal.

On his main escort boat, Captain Mizushima continued to adjust his course based on the strength of the currents and wind. On his secondary boat to his left, his 67-year-old wife Yukiko cheered him on.

Tominaga remained lucky from start to finish with the generous conditions offered by Mother Nature.

He was able to swim on nearly a straight shot between his start on Gongenzaki Cape to the town of Fukushima on the southernmost part of Hokkaido, taking only 9 hours 58 minutes to cross.

Photos and video of Toshio Tominaga are courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi.

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Dean Summers, Swimming Straight Into Winds & Currents

Courtesy of WOWSA, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.




























Dean Summers is a tough Australian swimmer with crossings of the Rottnest Channel (6 hours 42 minutes in 2014, 7 hours 58 minutes in 2015, 7 hours 19 minutes in 2016), the English Channel (13 hours 19 minutes), the Catalina Channel (11 hours 29 minutes), and the North Channel (13 hours 7 minutes) as well as other ocean swims around the world.

As with his other swims, he traveled to northern Japan with his son Daniel to take another shot at his fifth Oceans Seven channel, the Tsugaru Channel between Honshu and Hokkaido. As the weather patterns remained grumpy, Summers' window started to get shorter and shorter. On the second-to-last day, he reported, "The swim has been cancelled due to strong winds [that are] forecast to get stronger. [It is now the] last day of the window and sudden death for my Tsugaru chances."

With the winds howling, Summers and his escort pilot Ito decided to take the shortest route across the Tsugaru Channel: the 19.5 km Tappi Misaki Route. "It is the shortest possible course in terms of distance - as opposed to the longer and more conservative Kodomari Route. Off in the distance, Hokkaido usually looks so close, but it also carries significant risk because the Tsugaru Current usually whips right through the course and can push swimmers well off the straight-line tangent," explains Steven Munatones.

When it was all over, Summers wrote, "I need to take responsibility for the DNF on this Tsuguru attempt. After the window closed today, I encouraged the pilot and organizers to have shot at a daytime start and night finish. The winds and current were atrocious, but it was on me. I enjoyed the 54 km roller coaster with Daniel, Yusuke Shimasaki and pilot Ito-san."

The 58-year-old describes in depth his challenge:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When you first saw the Tsugaru Channel standing on top of Tappi Misaki and looking over to Hokkaido, what was your immediate reaction?

Dean Summers: I couldn’t actually see Hokkaido as it was always covered in clouds, but I could see the swirling water. I think they call it the dragon's tail that extends from Tappi Port towards the northwest. It’s where the current meets the wind and tide and is an ominous warning of what awaits us swimmers.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When you first walked into the water (somewhere around Tappi Misaki?) in the days leading up to your attempt, what was your first impression?

Dean Summers: For me, water has a particular texture and feel. It is hard to explain, but I’m sure swimmers understand. The water was warm, clear, soft and inviting. The beaches, however, are badly littered with plastics and fishing boat flotsam.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: The water looks clear in the Tsugaru Channel, but you swam when it was very choppy and turbulent. What was it like swimming in that washing machine?

Dean Summers: I can find a rhythm in any conditions, but I did take me an hour or two to relax and establish one in this swim. Water was still clear and I know now that there were strong currents in all directions. If you don’t have reference points, it’s hard to feel the current. Rough is always OK with me, but it’s those bloody currents that take their toll.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: The eddies in the Tsugaru Channel are notoriously difficult to swim through, especially as you get closer to Hokkaido. Did you swim into any eddies?

Dean Summers: My son Daniel was the support crew and reported seeing two distinct eddies where white caps were coming for every direction. In the water, the effect is exaggerated and it seemed the sea was whipped into peaking with sharp high waves. These lifted me and toss me around which was a fun distraction. They took 10 minutes to get through with no problems.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Did you see any marine life?

Dean Summers: I saw two lazy sea snakes in my first attempt [July 9th) and not much else. This time [August 31st), I was joined by a large school of tuna which swam all around me for a while trying to work out what I was and then after a few moments, swam off. They returned to keep me company three times and then got bored and left. A few jellyfish and not much else.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: The wind really kicks up in the Tsugaru Channel as it blows between Honshu and Hokkaido. How were the wind conditions during your time there in northern Japan?

Dean Summers: Yes, I think the mountains on either side create a funnel effect and blow strongly. My original swim was to be the day before, but the winds were blowing in excess of 35 knots and gusting over 40 so it was unsafe for the boat. I convinced Captain Ito to leave the next day at 11 am as it was my last chance to swim. Winds were about 20+ knots and gusting. He saw that I was comfortable so we all relaxed.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: During your Tsugaru Channel attempt, when (time) and why did you decide to call the swim?

Dean Summers: I didn’t call this swim. I now understand the trajectory of my course and that it was doomed once the currents didn’t relent on the Hokkaido side. At the time though, I thought I was close to the beach and was told to dig deep for 1 kilometer to push through the northsouth current and get into the lee of the mountains.

Believe me, I pushed hard and was happy to have heaps of strength and stamina left in my arms. Unfortunately, the cavalry did arrive and the current just pushed me back relentlessly until the organizer told me that I had swam 54 km and we were going backwards. I protested and said I can swim another 54 km, just find me a way into land.

They were right and always have a clearer perspective and a higher safety priority than the swimmers. After another hour and falling further south and east, I agreed reluctantly to surrender. This after 9 hours 44 minutes at 8:45 pm.


Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Even before you entered the water, you knew that the attempt was going to be tough. What was your mindframe before the start of the swim?

Dean Summers: It was a last-minute suggestion to have Yusuke request a day start and night finish with the pilot. I knew they weren’t overly excited, but the option for me was to go home dry with 20% of the costs in my pocket.

My philosophy is that you can only start any kind swim if you have your head in the right space. I was with Daniel and we are very close so I was full of confidence and happy to have a shot. I was 100% focused on success and keeping everyone happy on board.

In horse racing, they say make every post a winner and so I applied that thinking. Every wave I imagined was helping, every gust of wind, surge of current and change of tide was helping me get to the other side. I was wrong, of course, but we had a great journey. I often visualize negative thought and so acknowledge them and move on quickly.


Daily News of Open Water Swimming: A swim streamer is used during Tsugaru Channel swims. Were you able to see the swim streamer (even) in the rough water conditions?

Dean Summers: Tsugaru is the only swim that uses the streamer. Most of the time, it’s helpful and quiet, beautiful to watch it wave a flutter in the water. Other times, a cross current will draw it under the boat and alert you to the horrible effects of those conditions. I could see it all of the time and even at night. It helped me keep a safe distance from the boat when it got very rough.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What would it have taken for you to complete the crossing on the day that you tried?

Dean Summers: As mentioned, I wanted to keep going and told the pilot that I could swim all day and night. He believed me, but when the time came I think it was impractical. In hindsight, another 12 hours later would have been perfect, but the boat wasn’t available then. I can't imaging a time that I would voluntarily quit a swim except for obvious safety reason or if I had not trained properly.

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Masaki Sugita Completes Tsugaru Channel Crossing

Courtesy of Ocean Navi, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Japanese swimmer Masaki Sugita completed a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel on August 19th after 13 hours 18 minutes 43 seconds following the Kodomari Route that was pioneered by David Yudovin in 1990. He started in the early morning at 4:35 am in 22°C water under the guidance of Captain Harumitsu Ito and observer Ami Morioka who is now 2 for 2 on his escorted swims.

Videos of his swim are posted at the Channel Swim Japan Facebook page here.

Copyright © 2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sea Bull Crosses The Tsugaru Channel



Courtesy of Lynton Mortensen, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Lynton Mortensen completed his sixth Oceans Seven channel in the most unanticipated, unexpected crossing in recent memory.

A day after his original escort pilot Captain Mizushima inexplicably ran the primary Tsugaru Channel escort boat on rocks near the start and was hospitalized as a result [along with swimmer Nathalie Luisa], Mortensen had to adjust to a new pilot.

But the 54-year-old Australian, nicknamed Sea Bull, shook off the unexpected and quickly got his job done, completing the 19.5 km crossing in 9 hours 34 minutes.

He wrote, "Heartfelt thanks to my incredible crew with beautiful family Lisa and Angelique managing feeds and number one cheerleaders, observer Mika [Tokairin] and Captain Ito who was outstanding with his trusty fishing tawler called Daigo Taisei-maru. Nick and Lachie holding the fort back home but there in spirit.

We loaded up at Port Tappi, then Captain Ito motored us in the still night for an hour to the start line. It was a no fuss, no frills team, but everyone excited for what lay ahead.

Start time was 10:31 pm. The night was black as a raven in a starless sky. There is something quite eerie diving from the back of a trawler into the black ink water being guided by only a spot light and swimming alone to the sheer cliffs of Gogenzaki on Honshu to start the swim. Sensory overload. Visibility is limited with auditory and touch senses going into overdrive, coupled with a dash of anxiety. Just you and the soulless black water swirling and surging around the cliff face.

The faint sound of the air horn is heard to signify the start of the swim. Touch the cliff and the splash begins. The sense of trepidation swimming from the base of the cliffs with water sucking in and out doesn't ease until back alongside the trawler with the A team support crew.

The Tsugaru swim is unique. Attached to a fishing rod at the front of the trawler is a long white ribbon [swim streamer] which sits 6 or so feet below the water surface for the swimmer to follow. A convenient guide especially in the dark, but I was tired of the cat and mouse chasing that bloody thing.



No adventures with marine life on this swim. Think I've had my fair share of late! Though Angie and Lisa filmed a school of jumping tuna who knew to stay out of reach given my being partial to sashimi.

The strong currents on this swim are everything they say they and more. About 1/4 way in during the night a strong westerly current kicked in. I had to swim parallel west for sometime so as not to be swept east and miss our target finish. Captain Ito skillfully navagated and directed me through this tough patch to stay on course. I was sick of seeing the lights of Honshu everytime I breathed left. After finally braking the Tsugaru Current, I dug deep to get to the other side as quickly as possible, trying to beat any other currents that lay ahead.

It was an exhilarating swim to the finish being the lighthouse at Shirakami-misaki on Hokkaido. No trepidation swimming the last couple of 100 meters to the shore - slowed it right down to take it all in and enjoy the moment. Big school of fish greeted me close to shore.

Touch the rock on the shoreline and thrilled that Angie jumped in and swam back to the boat with me - only 9 years old, but already a strong swimmer - had to work to keep up with her. So thankful to the crew and good luck charms Lisa and Angie with Lisa not taking her eyes off me and keeping me well fed through the swim.

Another amazing swim to be part of - such a privilege to splash in these waters for number 6 of the Oceans Seven.

A massive shout out and thanks for all the well wishes and messages of support from friends around the world and the swimming crew back home in Brisvegas with Anna our resident home reporter - very humbling - greatly appreciated one & all.

Time for more sake, sashimi, sushi, Japanese beers...


Sea Bull out.

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Nathalie Luisa Update From The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of WOWSA, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

Back in 2013, Adam Walker had a bruiser of a battle across the Tsugaru Channel when he took 15 hours 31 minutes to cross in very turbulent water.

But last night, Walker had another experience on the Tsugaru Channel that was rougher and much more unexpected. Walker served as a member of Nathalie Luisa's escort crew along with Nathalie's father, coach Joshua Neloh, translator/observer Mika Tokairin and escort pilot Captain Mizushima who has escorted many swimmers and relays across the channel and fished in its waters as his primary job.

Walker wrote, "I can’t believe I’m writing this...the swim didn’t go ahead for Nathalie as the boat crashed into rocks on route to the start.

Everyone is ok, if not slightly bruised and in shock.

Nathalie banged her side and has rib pain so we need to check her out tomorrow. The pilot was unconscious for a few minutes, but fortunately I was able to wake him up. He has gone off in an ambulance, he hurt his collar bone and has gone to hospital!! The boat had to be towed. Of course, the swim is cancelled and of course very disappointed for Nathalie Luisa
."

Update: Nathalie ribs were x-rayed in Japan and shows a bad bruised, but no break. The pilot has a broken collarbone and will undergo surgery in a few days. The Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and Ocean Navi is reviewing its current safety protocols with changes anticipated to be made.

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Three's Company In Japan


Video courtesy of Matt Miller, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

On July 20th, Aleisha Riboldi from Australia, Lisa Batey from the USA, and Youri Lavoine from France completed a three-person relay across the Tsugaru Channel.

Similar to starts in the Catalina Channel, escort pilot Captain Mizushima has been starting swimmers near midnight, requiring the channel swimmers in the Far East to swim through the night.

Observer Masayuki Moriya said, "They started at 11:30 pm in the 22°C water near Honshu and finished at 5:59 pm the next day in slightly cooler (18°C) waters near Hokkaido for a total time of 18 hours 29 minutes 42 seconds in a fairly calm crossing, but they were slowed by the Tsugaru Current."

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tomonari Ogino Crosses The Tsugaru Channel

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi, Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

After getting a taste of crossing the 19.5 km Tsugaru Channel on a six-person relay with Team Yajyu (チーム野獣 in Japanese or Team Beast in English) in July 2016, Tomonari Ogino started to think about a solo crossing.

Almost two years to the day, Ogino's dream was realized.

Ogino started late at night (11:43 pm) on the Aomori Prefecture side of the Tsugaru Channel in 21°C water and walked upon the Hokkaido shore at 11:48 am the next day after swimming the second half of the channel in 18°C water. His 12 hour 5 minute 50 second swim was his first major channel crossing.

His success was a long time coming - and not anticipated, at least initially.

"I had swum for about 8 years 5 times per week. I was not [initially[ aiming to cross the Tsugaru Channel, but it was simply to have fun swimming because I liked it. I didn't do much long-distance training for a swim like Tsugaru, but I did not have anxiety and swam with great confidence because I had been swimming for 8 years and I was able to get a start window. I was coached by Ocean Navi coach Masayuki Moriya and all my friends who practice together every morning. I swam so that I could repay everyone's thoughts and support.

I took on the swim in order to learn how to have a heart of gratitude. I try to not forget that feeling in my daily life.

On July 18th at night, I was going to lie down, but I could not get any sleep. We were departing at 11:23 pm from the port and I started at 11:43 pm at the cape.

In our meeting on the previous day, I understood that there may be tidal flow until 5 am at dawn, but after that, the tide will become weak, and it is only about noon that the tide on the Hokkaido side would become strong.

In the beginning, the water temperature was warm and I encountered jellyfish. I was moving down the cape twice at right angles. [The current was so fast that when] a bottle of supplies was thrown in front of the escort boat, in a moment, they were floating behind the boat.

We're going through the tide around the 9 km mark. I was told that I have 5 km left and to swim faster on the right side of the boat. While I was looking at the lighthouse [on land] diagonally on my right, I swam in the horizontal direction against the tide. But the captain was able to pick up the best course. I had a lot of fun making all the pieces work together.

On the right side, I have to check my position relative to the boat. But when I breathed on both sides of the waves, I had a pain in my left arm. [At that time], I thought I had been swimming for an hour, but in fact, I had been swimming for 2 hours.

The water temperature dropped rapidly [near Hokkaido] in the area where the tide flows. It said 18°C on the thermometer, but it felt about 14°C. Finally, I was able to touch the black rock on the right side of the lighthouse on Cape Shirakami and hear the [finish] horn on July 19th.

I wanted to go back to the boat and thank everyone, but I had a sore throat due to the seawater and I don't look good in tears. And I don't even have a voice with cold and fatigue
."

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Nora Toledano Cadena, Mariel Hawley Set Tsugaru Record

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi in the Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

It was not looking good for Nora Toledano Cadena and Mariel Hawley Dávila, two Mexican swimmers, to be able to attempt a second attempt at crossing the Tsugaru Channel.

The veteran pair of marathon swimmers had been frustrated before when they traveled from their native Mexico City to northern Japan. It seemed like déjà vu and they were being frustrated again by Mother Nature.

Over night, the conditions in the fickle channel suddenly went from impossibly turbulent to possibly doable and the women and their escort pilot Captain Mizushima decided on a risky strategy of departing in the early morning at 1:15 am from Kodomari Benten Cape, a more conservative course on the Kodomari Route.

Masayuki Moriya from Ocean Navi reported, "[Starting area] Aomori was often rough due to a low pressure system that was sweeping through. Nora and Mariel had originally scheduled to depart the previous day on June 30th; fortunately, the weather unexpectedly became settled just before their departure in the morning."

The women didn't sleep well with anxiety, but they were also excited about this small window of opportunity.

They gathered at Tappi Misaki port to meet Captain Mizushima, but a thick bank of fog also greeted them. Then rain began to fall through the darkness. But the wind died and the infamous Tsugaru Current fizzled to nothing.

"What was looking like a disaster of another long trip to Japan where they could not swim turned into a wonderful gift of nature," commented Steven Munatones "The conditions turned out to be the best for channel swimming in a very long time as the current was pushing them towards the opposite shoreline of Hokkaido at up to 5 km per hour."

They arrived in Hokkaido on the small beachfront under the Shirakami Misaki Lighthouse which has traditionally been one of the most difficult points along the Hokkaido shore to finish.

The pair swam stroke-for-stroke the entire course and kept up a blistering pace with the favorable currents.

Ultimately, they stood again on land at 7:36 am, setting a women's record with a fast time of 6 hours 20 minutes 52 seconds.

Toledano, an Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming of Hall Class of 2006, said, "The sea was so welcoming. I feel very happy about this experience of being able to cross Tsugaru, now my fifth Oceans Seven channel. It was wonderful having my support team aboard including my son Max López and my mother Dora Cadena, as well as many friends helping us and sending good vibes from afar."

Hawley was equally ecstatic, "Never mind when someone tells you that you are not strong enough to get through a storm, because actually sometimes, one is the fortress battling the storm. We completed the Tsugaru crossing. I entered the sea in Tappi at one in the morning with a deep humility and gratitude. 6 hours and 20 minutes later, I emerged from the water in Hokkaido with Nora together in pure friendship and love that I was able to share in her fifth Oceans Seven swim."



Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Watch Nora Toledano, Mariel Hawley Set Tsugaru Record

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi in the Tsugaru Channel, Japan.

For a report on the record-setting 6 hour 20 minute tandem swim by Nora Toledano Cadena and Mariel Hawley Dávila across the Tsugaru Channel in northern Japan from Honshu to Hokkaido, visit here.

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association