Nitty Gritty Details
1 Reviews for North Shore Challenge
This is easily my most memorable race of 2009. Every August, this 2.3mi race draws top-ranked triathletes and swimmers from all over from every age group. It's the last race in the Surf-n-Sea 4-race series (http://www.hawaiiswim.com/nsss.html). This race is about a month before the other famous race on Oahu: the 2.4mi Waikiki Roughwater swim (which became the swim for the original Ironman).
The North Shore Challenge starts at Pipeline (Ehukai Beach) and heads west to the finish at Waimea Bay. Race size has been growing every year - I think this year they had about 400 swimmers.
Parking is the only issue, especially with its growing popularity. There is a church and a Ralph's within a 15-minute walking distance, and a $5 donation will allow you to park there all day. The swim clubs across Oahu also have shuttle buses bringing their teams out to the race, so if you are visiting and staying in Waikiki, you might be able to call a local swim club to see if they have room on their shuttles.
This race brings out some of the world's best open-water swimmers, and many do show up with their A-game. Race winners typically finish the 2.3mi in 42 minutes.
But the moment you step onto Ehukai and you hear and feel the crashing of the waves (keep in mind this is August, so they're 3-ft small, compared to the 50-ft+ surf in the winter), you get entranced by the sensual extremes. Your eyes are taking in vast beauty of the coast and the variations of blue in the water, your ears are taking in the violent roar, and your skin is feeling a welcoming warm breeze. There's really no way to put it into words - but it makes you feel very small and insignificant. It's not really about the event - it's about the natural beauty of the ocean, and how fortunate we are to have such a resource to enjoy.
Then you jump in for warm-up, and you see another world from the surface. It's like flying over a large city, and you're looking down at the tops of skyscrapers, the city surface, and everything in between. Except now it's complex rock and coral formations and the rippled sand on the floor, complete with tropical fish, skates, octopus, etc. We went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay a few days prior to this, and this experience beats Hanauma, hands down, because it's just raw unspoiled nature.
The race is a water start in between buoys. The fastest swimmers position themselves in a group on the right side (away from the shore). The swimmers closest to shore are susceptible to the break-zone rips and currents, which are extremely strong. Dangerous at times too, because there are protruding rocks and perched coral formations. Swimming far from shore also gives you a straight line of sight to the finish.
The race is guided by lifeguards on paddleboards, jetskis, and kayaks. They do a really good job steering you away from the rocks or any hazards in the water.
Swimming the 2.3 miles over so much underwater life and varying scenery, and even a pod of dolphins, is such a fantastic experience. Some swimmers even swam with snorkel masks so as not to miss a second of the experience.
The water is warm - no wetsuits. Swimmers did this race in speedskins, bikinis, speedos, boardshorts, neon Borat-suits, etc.
The race was also electronically timed. Packet/chip pickup was at registration the morning of the race at Waimea (the finish). Once you're ready and dressed, they bus you to the start at Pipeline.
This race is really unique - the raw beauty of the North Shore and the power of the ocean, and the underwater scenery and wildlife, are likely unmatched.
I'm definitely going back in 2010. Who's in??
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