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Hopper, Carter and Leslie wade in for a final swim at Kahalu’u.

In spite of our best efforts to keep the end at bay, Saturday morning came.

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Hopper and I took one more bike ride past Lyman’s Bay to our guests’ Hale home. There we picked up Leslie and met Carter and headed out to Kahalu’u for one more swim. This little-bay-that-could did not disappoint – teams of tangs, pairs of huma huma, even a few baby turtles ushered us past the gentle break and the rocky outcrop that is the gateway beyond the reef here. Glassy calm sea, clear and deep and rich. Thank you for this morning, Pacific.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We rinsed off the last of our sea salt and headed back to wrap up the trip. One more time everyone into the van and we headed for the airport. Goodbyes are tough for me after a week like this. We’ve all settled into a rhythm of good mornings, splashing in, looking for each other across the water’s surface, marveling at the sites above and below. I’ve got special memories of each of our swimmers from this week.

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Leslie opened herself up to the unpredictability of open water, of Hawaii. I watched her accept herself as part of the water over the course of the week. She swam with new strength and calm for nearly 3 miles in Kealakekua on Friday. By our swim Saturday morning, she was a new, happier swimmer with confidence and flexibility.

 

 

 

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Hugh Sr. came to us with the hope of relaxing and swimming at his pace, stress free. I must say, every time I watched him swim, I felt my own stress level drop. He was so happy to be in the water. It was infectious to the group.

Hugh Jr. came to us game and at ease in the water. He moved easily between pace groups and was so grateful just to be there. He and Hopper saved me from despair on our Manta-less Tuesday night with a steady stream of awesome jokes behind an ill fitting snorkel mask. At least we were laughing while floating there in the dark!

 

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The last time I swam with Amy in the BVI, she was strong but nervous, uncertain of her abilities. This week, though I didn’t get to swim with her much, she radiated confidence and calm. She swam up in front all week, one of the first to explore each swim.

 

 

 

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Jeff enjoyed an afternoon of fish identification with me at Kahalu’u. He made me feel great when he said he learns something new on every swim. He’s a strong swimmer who’s happy to slow it down and take it all in.

 

 

 

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Jenny blew me away this week with her courage and poise. She faced her fears and opened up in a way I hadn’t yet seen in our two prior trips together. She found her confidence, found her strength, found a new gear. And the great thing about Jenny is that whenever she accomplishes a goal she sets for herself, dolphins show up. Hurry back, Jenny!

 

 

 

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Carter joined our team at the end of our week but always brings with him a big fat grin and a bucket of Yes. With all the adventures he’s had in his life, he always seems to get pumped up by a SwimVacation. Thanks for pitching in this week CT!

 

 

 

 

 

So saying Aloha goodbye to this crew at the airport wasn’t nearly as easy as saying Aloha hello. But we did it (I shed a few tears) with the hopes that we’ll swim together again. The bonds we form in the water last a long long time.

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After drop off, Hopper, McGuckin and I ran around and closed up shop – returned rentals, prepared stuff for storage. Made notes for next year. Next year. Thank goodness we’ll be back to Hawaii. Having McGuckin and some of our stuff there helps me feel like this Big Island in the middle of a great sea isn’t so far away after all. Eventually Hopper and I packed up, grabbed one last meal, toasted a great week and boarded a plane for the main land.

 

 

 

 

The little baby turtle that played with Hopper at Kahalu’u Saturday morning got me thinking about this island in the time line of life on earth. Hawaii is just a baby. Still sitting atop a hot spot, still growing, still forming. Still jagged and sharp in its youth, colors still vibrant and distinct. Black sand beaches barely past their larval stage form the coastline, white pocket beaches stand out like the stripes on a clown wrasse. This island is still deciding what to become – which edges will round off and which colors will dampen over time. For now, it’s still raw and new.

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Hopper and his new friend turtle swim away. I’m trailing behind, reluctant to end this swim…

The Pacific is working to tame this place. We jump into the foam and remember that we’re just in the middle of a great natural process here. As the Pacific and time shape Hawaii, the Pacific and Hawaii shape us as swimmers. I witnessed as our guests decided who they are in the water this week. I’ve always said that open water swimming is an adventure in staying flexible and acceptance of what’s offered, becoming part of the environment – not a thing working against it. I’ve come to think that in Hawaii, this is more true than anywhere.

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Fresh water rises up between our toes in the black sand along the water’s edge at Kahalu’u. It flows down through lava tubes from way up high on the mountain and mixes with the sea here.

 

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When we arrived over a week ago, it seemed the Pacific might pound away at our swimming resolve this week. It’s important to point out she changed her mind – by Tuesday we had gentle rollers, by wednesday we had a glassy surface along a stunning reef from a black sand beach to a snowy white one. The swell stayed away until the day we left. The mantas eluded again, but the dolphins came to celebrate great personal efforts by our swimmers. This is what I knew Kona could be for SwimVacation – a wild week in a bluey-green sea full of life, with gentle evenings full of camaraderie and the scent of plumaria in the air.

 

 

 

 

Who couldn’t use a week like this?

Home now reunited with friends and family in rainy cold Maine, but still feeling the Aloha. Mahalo nui loa, Hawaii!

– Heather

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The Aloha stays with me!

Leaving Kona, leaving San Franscisco, arriving in Boston.

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