Get In The Swim

Namolokama Canoe Club hosts its eighth annual Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge July 26, with two distances for the big folks and two races for keiki. It’s been named one of the top 100 open-water swims in the U.S., and last year more than 300 people took the plunge

Hanalei Bay is Gregg Kravitz’s gym. The avid paddler appreciates how he can maintain his health in such an ideal location where the water serves as his oasis, casting his worries adrift.

“You’re able to lose yourself from the land,” says Kravitz, a member of Namolokama Canoe Club. “Your worries and concerns just don’t seem to exist. You truly are a world unto yourself.”

Kravitz looks forward to sharing his favorite workout facility with others July 26 for the eighth annual Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge. The event is a fundraiser for Namolokama Canoe Club and is expected to draw hundreds of participants to the beautiful North Shore next weekend.

The challenge will consist of two races (ages 13 and up) — 1,000 meters and 3,000 meters — as well as two keiki races (ages 8 and under and ages 9-12) who swim from one end of Hanalei Bay pier to the other.

What makes this year’s race so unique is a special appearance by guest athlete Leahi Camacho from Hawaii Island. At just 17, Camacho was the youngest person ever to swim the 26 miles from Molokai to Oahu last year.

“It just took my breath away,” says Kravitz, who contacted her after the tremendous feat to ask if she would consider being a part of the race this year.

“To show keiki and adults that with good, positive training and a healthy lifestyle, you can accomplish these outrageous goals,” he says.

Though the event is held in support of the Namolokama Canoe Club, the initial organizers knew they wanted to promote a sport other than paddling.

“A lot of people thought it was funny to hold a swim meet to raise funds,” says Kravitz.

But it’s not so funny anymore. The event was recently recognized as one of the top hundred open water swims in the United States by the Open Water Swim Association.

The challenge, which continues to grow, attracted about 60 people during its inaugural year approximately three years after the canoe club was founded —and rose to nearly 200 during its sixth year and more than 300 in 2013.

“Last year, the weather was absolutely stunning,” recalls Kravitz. “It just behaved so well and everybody had such a fabulous time.”

Though he enjoys all aspects of the competition, Kravitz especially looks forward to watching keiki come in after their swims and seeing their glee as they each receive a ribbon for completing the race.

“And, boy, I’ve got to tell you, those ribbons are proudly mounted on their walls years later,” he says.

The challenge even inspired many of them to join local swim teams and also encourages them to continue living active, healthy lifestyles.

Kravitz understands the importance of maintaining physical health and regularly paddles with Namolokama Canoe Club, which he has been a part of since moving to the island from California in 2011. The club was born on Kauai about a decade ago and continues to attract new members. Kravtiz believes it’s one of the most gratifying methods of exercise, and he encourages everyone to give it a try.

The club not only offers competitive paddling opportunities, it also holds sessions twice a week where people can drop in recreationally.

“It’s the best $20 anybody can ever spend,” says Kravitz, though he warns that those who drop-in often end up joining competitively.

“It’s an epiphany for many people here,” he says.

The cost for yearly membership is $175.

“There’s no other sport that’s that inexpensive that can bring so much joy and excitement, physical fitness and camaraderie,” says Kravitz who is a retired sales representative for the legal publishing business.

Help support the Namolokama Canoe Club by registering for the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge at hanaleibayswimchallenge.com.

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