Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tough Toshio Tominaga Tackles Tsugaru

Courtesy of Masayuki Moriya, Ocean Navi, Japan.

In his younger days, Toshio Tominaga (富永俊夫 in Japanese) played water polo and swam in school. He was competitive, but then he began his professional career at a Japanese electronics corporation.

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.

For years, he did numerous ocean swims from Okinawa in southern Japan and occasionally traveled overseas to swim in the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey (2009) and the English Channel crossing (2013). But the most difficult ocean swim in Japan, the Tsugaru Channel, was in his sights. He trained and trained and got himself physically and mentally prepared. He studied the logistics and different strategies of crossing the technically difficult channel.

On September 7th 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.

"Imagine looking at the palm of your hand with your thumb outstretched. The ideal start is at the tip of your thumb and you are heading for the tip of your forefinger," explained Munatones who crossed in both directions in 1990. "Due to the tidal flows caused by the difference in water levels between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, the Tsugaru Current is swift and always pushes swimmers eastward. Plus, channel swimmers nearly always have to deal with giant swirling eddies that are caused by the topography and shoreline of Hokkaido as they approach their goal."

But Tominaga was lucky.

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.

"His time was the seventh fastest in history. He kept up his stroke and maintained a great pace throughout his crossing. Without a doubt, it was a remarkable swim for anyone, but is especially great to see a swimmer his age take on this challenge. His time reflected his preparations, his navigational strategy, and the generous conditions offered by Mother Nature."

Photo and video courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean Navi.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mariel Hawley Dávila Tries Tsugaru

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Mariel Hawley Dávila knew the risk of attempting a crossing of the Tsugaru Channel that sits between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Her crew, including Nora Tolendo Cadena and Gela Limonchi Gomez, knew the risk due to strong winds, waves and the tides.

But with the escort pilot's recommendations, they talked and decided to give it a go given the weather predictions.

"I started to swim [from Honshu] against a lot of waves and wind, but I swam with peace and faith that everything would be fine. As the hours went by, the wind increased its strength and the swells became more complicated. I tried to swim flowing with the waves; however, at 5 hours, my coach Nora decided to suspend the swim thinking about my safety."

She explains in her native Spanish, "Aún y cuando sabíamos que las condiciones para nadar no eran las mejores, debido a fuerte viento, oleaje y marea, hoy era mi oportunidad para intentar el cruce a Tsugaru ya que el capitán nos comentó durante la madrugada que hoy sería mejor opción que mañana; adicionalmente el pronóstico del tiempo mostraba que el viento iría disminuyendo durante el día. Por lo anterior decidimos intentar el cruce.

Empecé a nadar con mucho oleaje y viento en contra pero con mucha paz y fe de que todo iría bien. Conforme pasaron las horas, el viento aumentó de fuerza y el oleaje se hizo más complicado, en un momento reflexioné que estaba en medio de un mar muy bravo pero también recordé que la naturaleza siempre manda y traté de nadar fluyendo con el oleaje; sin embargo, a las 5 horas de nado mi Coach Nora Toledano decidió suspender el cruce pensando en mi seguridad

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association