Monday, December 23, 2013

Free Wi-Fi In Japan For Foreign Swimmers And Crew

For an increasing number of channel swimmers who are attempting Tsugaru Channel crossings or who are participating in the increasing number of open water swims in Japan like with the Japan International Open Water Swimming Association events from Okinawa to Honshu, it is usually appreciated when Internet access is available.

Facebooking your friends and family, tweeting about your races, posting videos of your swims to YouTube have become nearly as important as is training and finding the right hydration in a foreign country.

The government of Japan is trying to make foreign swimmer's visits a bit more convenient by providing free Wi-Fi spots throughout Japan! Swimmers just need to their passport at certain locations (e.g., airports) to obtain an ID and password in order to logon to the Internet for free.

Foreign visitors are provided free use of Wi-Fi spots around Japan for 14 days (a total of 336 hours of use). Swimmers, crew members, coaches, friends and family members can pick up a free Wi-Fi card from one of the counters established at facilities such as airports and tourist information centers. The ID and password necessary to log-in are printed on the card, so you just need to enter these as directed at the different access points in Japan.

There is no need to fill out any application forms, so this service is easy and convenient for first-time visitors to Japan.

All you need is your Wi-Fi-supporting mobile device to connect to the more than 17,000 Wi-Fi spots around Japan (as of January 2013). All these access points are based on fiber optic lines, guaranteeing fast and stable communications.

For more information, visit here.

When the Tsugaru Channel was added to the Oceans Seven, most channel swimmers around the world said, "Where is that? There are tides in the English Channel, jellyfish in the North Channel, huge ocean swells in the Molokai Channel, sharks and cold water in the Cook Strait, night swimming and whales in the Catalina Channel. How tough can the Tsugaru Channel be?"

Good questions all because the photos from the stretch of water between Honshu and Hokkaido can be inscrutable, unpredictable, and misleading.

Adam Walker (aka Mad Adam) found out when he became the first British male to complete a crossing of the 19.7 km Tsugaru Channel in September with his 15 hour 31 minute traverse. Mad Adam found out first-hand how tough the Tsugaru Channel is when he was escorted by Captain Mizushima.



Mad Adam had to fight adverse currents most of the way. "After 10 hours, he was tired of course, but he kept on fighting with the waves and current. But he was patient and looked strong throughout," recalls Captain Mizushima.



"I must be honest, this swim was the hardest to date," Walker remembered. "I had to do regular sprints like interval training all the way across when given the signal from the pilot and the waves were relentless. At one stage the ways were so bad I could barely swim and was just ducking under them for an hour and a half. Even at the end when I had a mile to go it pushed me back to 2 miles. Then I had 1 mile to go and it pushed me sideways before finally letting me in. I had two separate occasions when a shark swam underneath me but still have all limbs so all good.

"This tested me to the limit no doubt. The waves were rough all the way through and having to do interval sprints frequently through the swim burnt a lot of energy but it was necessary to beat the current. Even when I could see land, I got hit with waves that through me around like a rag doll. When we were through them and I had a mile to go, I got pushed back another mile. Then I got pushed sideways. I thought the Molokai Channel tested me to the limit, getting stung and pushed along the coast for 6 hours. But this was worse. It took everything I had."

Definitely rough, but most certainly rewarding and something to tweet home about…for free.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, August 26, 2013

Team Umiou Completes Tsugaru Channel Crossing

From their start on Hokkaido to their finish on the rocky beach on the main island of Honshu, Team Umiou (海王うみおう》) was a bunch of very happy, very grateful, always smiling masters swimmers.

Team Umiou of Tokyo was a 6-person relay team of masters open water swimmers who completed their 12 hours 45 minute crossing of the Tsugaru Channel in Japan under the watchful eye of Captain Mizushima.

Their crossing was never easy and never guarantee, but they kept on smiling and cheering each other on as they started at 4:07 am on July 30th and finished at 4:52 pm in the 21-24ºF (69.8-75.2ºC) waters. Their north-to-south crossing was anything but linear as they were bounced around by the turbulence and were swung laterally by the strong Tsugaru Current. But they kept on course, never lost faith, and finished with their characteristic smiles.

Its members included Tomokazu Sakurai (櫻井智和), Nobu Arihisa (有久暢), Yuko Isozaki (礒崎祐子), Shinpei Kamata (鎌田慎平), Fujiko Kawasaki (川崎富士子), and Motoko Honma (本間素子).

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Adam Walker Faces Rough Water In The Tsugaru

When the Tsugaru Channel was added to the Oceans Seven, most channel swimmers around the world said, "Where is that? There are tides in the English Channel, jellyfish in the North Channel, huge ocean swells in the Molokai Channel, sharks and cold water in the Cook Strait, night swimming and whales in the Catalina Channel. How tough can the Tsugaru Channel be?"

Good questions all because the photos from the channel between Honshu and Hokkaido can be inscrutable, unpredictable, and misleading.

Last week, Adam Walker became the first British male to complete a crossing of the 19.7 km Tsugaru Channel in Japan with his 15 hour 31 minute traverse.

Walker has completed 5 of the 7 channels of the Oceans Seven: English Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Molokai Channel, Catalina Channel, and he found out first-hand how tough the Tsugaru Channel is.



Mad Adam, as he is alternatively known, was escorted by Captain Mizushima who had to fight adverse currents most of the way. "After 10 hours, he was tired of course, but he kept on fighting with the waves and current. But he was patient and looked strong throughout."

"I must be honest, this swim was the hardest to date. I had to do regular sprints like interval training all the way across when given the signal from the pilot and the waves were relentless. At one stage the ways were so bad I could barely swim and was just ducking under them for an hour and a half. Even at the end when I had a mile to go it pushed me back to 2 miles. Then I had 1 mile to go and it pushed me sideways before finally letting me in. I had two separate occasions when a shark swam underneath me but still have all limbs so all good.

"This tested me to the limit no doubt. The waves were rough all the way through and having to do interval sprints frequently through the swim burnt a lot of energy but it was necessary to beat the current. Even when I could see land, I got hit with waves that through me around like a rag doll. When we were through them and I had a mile to go, I got pushed back another mile. Then I got pushed sideways. I thought the Molokai Channel tested me to the limit, getting stung and pushed along the coast for 6 hours. But this was worse. It took everything I had."

Definitely rough, but most certainly rewarding.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, August 12, 2013

Adam Walker Completes Tsugaru Channel Quest

Adam Walker became the first British male to complete a crossing of the 19.7 km Tsugaru Channel in Japan with today's 15 hour 31 minute traverse from Honshu to Hokkaido.

Walker has now completed 5 of the 7 channels of the Oceans Seven: English Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Molokai Channel, Catalina Channel, and now the Tsugaru Channel.

Mad Adam, as he is alternatively known, was escorted by Captain Mizushima who had to fight adverse currents most of the way. "After 10 hours, he was tired of course, but he kept on fighting with the waves and current. But he was patient and looked strong throughout."

"I must be honest, this swim was the hardest to date. I had to do regular sprints like interval training all the way across when given the signal from the pilot and the waves were relentless. At one stage the ways were so bad I could barely swim and was just ducking under them for an hour and a half. Even at the end when I had a mile to go it pushed me back to 2 miles. Then I had 1 mile to go and it pushed me sideways before letting me in.

I had two separate occasions when a shark swam underneath me but still have all limbs so all good
."

And now he remains on track to become the first British man to complete the Oceans Seven.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Journey Continues Across Channels

What is truly admirable among endurance athletes and marathon swimmers is their passion and interest in the success of their colleagues, comrades and compatriots. Fast or slow, young or old, newbie or veteran, the open water swimmers pull for each other, knowing that Mother Nature is the greatest foe.

As the channel swimming season kicks off in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Pacific Rim nations, the crème de la crème extend their best wishes to those who follow. Darren Miller sends his regards to the multi-national group of swimmers who will attempt the Tsugaru Channel this season:

Swimmers,

Congratulations on setting a date to challenge the mighty Tsugaru Channel!

Your swim will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, as the Tsugaru Channel is one of the most beautiful, yet challenging bodies of water on the planet. The Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan is an incredible landscape of lush forest, vast countryside and a lifestyle which has been in place for thousands of years.

Please do not be fooled by the relatively ‘short’ distance of this crossing – it turned out to be the most difficult challenge I have faced in my marathon swimming career. Looking back, I am so thankful to the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and my amazing crew – including Steven Munatones, Masayuki Moriya, Captain Mizushima, Matthew Miller and Noel Brown, as well as the remarkable Yuko Matsuzaki, who was so instrumental with coordinating the journey prior to my departure from the United States.

It was also an honor to have the inspirational and determined Stephen Redmond following along throughout the night while awaiting his attempt from the Japanese coast. Stephen is a man with a wonderful heart and unwavering determination. I will never forget his excitement and powerful hug upon my return to the harbor at Tappi Misaki - a true gentleman and someone I am proud to call a friend.

Without the assistance of these fine individuals, this would have been possible.

It was a blessing to have such fantastic people by my side while so far from home.

I urge you to view my daily videos from Japan via my YouTube channel at ‘teamforeverswim’, or contact me via email at dmiller@darren-miller.com with any and all questions. I wanted to fully document my journey so that others could benefit from my experience. I will do everything in my power to calm your worries, assist with planning or offer up friendly advice and positive thoughts for your adventure.

You will be successful – all you have to do is believe in yourself.

With admiration,


Darren E. Miller

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Mother Nature Rolls Out Welcome Mat For Brad McVetta

12 hours into his Tsugaru Channel attempt and the winds remain uncharacteristically light and the waves nearly non-existent. Brad McVetta has taken advantage of the conditions, but he still has to push hard against the viciously wicked Tsugaru Current before he reaches the distant shores of Hokkaido.

The challenge continues as the sun starts to set in the northern reaches of Japan during the Tsugaru Channel kick-off swim today.

Photo by Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi.

Update 8 km from Hokkaido. The water temperature has shifted between 15ºC (along the coasts) and 20ºC (mid-channel) as McVetta closes in 8 km from shore, but the tides have shifted, the water is getting colder, the sun is setting, and he is now battling slowly against the wall of increasingly moving water.

Final outcome is posted here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

The Tsugaru Current Runs Strong Unpredictably

The notorious Tsugaru Current turned its back on yet another accomplished marathon swimmer this late evening in northern Japan.

Brad McVetta, a Triple Crown swimmer with successful swims across the English Channel and the Catalina Channel, and around Manhattan Island, struggled across the calm 19.5 km Tsugaru Channel for 17 hours 13 minutes. The fluctuation of the water temperature in the channel also did not help matters. The water varied between 15ºC (59ºF) at the start on his swim on Aomori Prefecture to 20ºC (68ºF) in mid-channel, and then back down to 15ºC as McVetta was approaching Hokkaido.

The Tsugaru Current whips around the southern edges of Hokkaido and kicks up some large, unpredictable eddies that draw up the colder water from the depths to the surface. It is a double punch that has taken down more than one tough channel swimmer. With the sun setting, McVetta could not make any progress against the Current that no hurry to turn, so he retired with 8 km to go.

Photo courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

What Does The Tsugaru Channel Look Like?

Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi photographed and filmed Triple Crowner Brad McVetta's valient 17 hour 13 minute attempt of a Tsugaru Channel crossing from numerous angles above, below and at the water's surface.

The illustrative video created with a GoPro shown below gives a great idea of how the Tsugaru Channel looks on a calm day, but the story is always different under the surface of the clean, fast-moving, always temperature-variant water where the notorious Tsugaru Current and its resultant eddies can quickly and easily turn its back on channel swimmers.



Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Team Ocean-navi Sets Tsugaru Relay Record

The first team up on the blocks for the 2013 Tsugaru Channel season, Team Ocean-navi, set the wetsuit record for a single relay crossing during yesterday's collective effort.

The Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association confirmed the time of the rapid relay in 6 hours 44 minutes under the steady helm of Captain Mizushima.

Coached by Masayuki Moriya of Tokyo's Ocean-navi, the relay went more smoothly than expected between Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan. The team took nearly the straightest shot on record from their start on Kodomari Cape to their finish on Shirakami Misaki.

"It was incredible," said coach Moriya. "The conditions were good. The team shot across the Tsugaru Channel like no other relay before. Everyone swam well and they all did a great job."

Team Ocean-navi #1 from Tokyo included Takahashi Yuri (高橋ゆり), Takahashi Yuichi (高橋雄一), Kobayashi Noriko (小林範子), Kobayashi Shinobu (小林忍), Miyazaki Kyoko (宮崎京子), and Tamaru Atsuko (田丸厚子).

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Why Are Two Boats Used In The Tsugaru Channel?

"Way back in 1990 when Steven Munatones crossed the Tsugaru Channel, he used 2 escort boats," explained Yuko Matsuzaki of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and daughter of the former director of the Japanese Coast Guard. "While each major channel in the world has its own traditions, the Japanese always have good reasons for their marine laws and requirements."

Team Ocean-navi #2 was a typical example of why two escort boats are required in the Tsugaru Channel. The 4-person relay under the guidance of Captain Mizushima started at 4:00 am and finished nearly at 6:00 pm for a 13 hour 56 minute crossing.

The crossing was successful as the relay cut across the Tsugaru Current and sliced across the usual Tsugaru winds. All in all, the swim went according to plan and fortunately as the team neared their finish on Hokkaido, the winds stopped. Things in the Tsugaru Channel became calm, but they faced other problems.

As they were swimming towards the Hokkaido coastline, they had a very difficult time to land in Hokkaido due to longline fishing net.

The Tsugaru Channel season coincides with the tuna fishing season. The Tsugaru fishermen's union set its net for longline fishing and these nets always change their location. To protect their very expensive nets, the fishermen's union orders swimmers to use two escort boats. One guides the swimmer staying close and one to scout ahead to make sure no longline nets are damaged or crossed. It's not a wish to abide by their decree. It is a flat-out order that all swimmers must follow at the risk of having all future swims cancelled due to the power of the local union.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

It Takes A Team And All Day

13 hours 41 minutes after starting on Kodomari Cape on the main Japanese island of Honshu, Team Ocean-navi's 4-person relay finished on Shirakami Misaki on the northern island of Hokkaido.

It was a long haul, but Hiroko Minami (南浩子), Toshihiro Katsumata (勝亦俊弘), Michiko Ito (伊藤美智子), and Masaru Suzuki (鈴木優) battled the Tsugaru Current and finished to become this season's second successful wetsuit team across the Tsugaru Channel.

Patiently following one another hour after hour, the quartet never lost confidence that they would finish. It was only a matter of time given the generally calm conditions. Slowly but surely they made their way across the tricky channel, sometimes caught in eddies and pushed in unexpected directions.

Starting out before the sun rose, it took all day. And it was well worth the effort.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tsugaru Channel - The 2013 Season

The Oceans Seven includes 2 channels in the UK (North Channel and English Channel), 1 channel in Oceania (Cook Strait), 1 channel in the Mediterranean (Strait of Gibraltar), and 3 channels in the Pacific Ocean (Catalina Channel, Molokai Channel, Tsugaru Channel).

Like every channel around the world, there is a growing number of swimmers challenging themselves against the elements.

Not only are an unprecedented number of foreign swimmers heading over to the Tsugaru Channel, but also an increase in Japanese swimmers including disabled athletes, are heading up north to Aomori Prefecture.

This is the schedule to date of the 2-day windows of various solo swimmers and relays held under the auspices of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and Ocean Navi:

June 29th and 30th: Pending confirmation
July 1st and 2nd: Brad McVetta (USA)
July 13th and 14th: Team Ocean-navi #1 (Japan)
July 15th and 16th: Team Ocean-navi #2 (Japan)
July 30th and 31st: Team Kaio (Japan)
August 1st and 2nd: Team Hatto (Japan)
August 12th and 13th: Adam Walker (UK)
August 14th and 15th: Yesenia Cabrera (Guatemala)
August 28th and 29th: Team Matsukawa (Japan)
September 10th and 11th: Chris Kraus, Rick Gaenzle and Brian Ross
September 12th and 13th: Mo Siegel (USA)
September 24th and 25th: Santosh Patil (India)

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association