Leahi Camacho, Making Molokai Memorable


Leahi Camacho of Hawaii will attempt to become the youngest person ever to successfully cross the Molokai Channel. This is her story and these are her reasons:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When did you start thinking about crossing the Molokai Channel?
Leahi Camacho: The channel itself I didn’t know much about. But I do remember in 2009 watching the news with my dad, specifically because “the girl I went to zones with” was going to be on, Mackenzie Miller. I remember telling my dad that I wanted to to that. Even though I had no idea how far it was. After that it kinda died down until a few months ago when I was late-night web surfing and one link led to the next and I was looking at all the channels on the Hawaii swimming web page. I printed out the map and the rules, wrote “maybe one day?” below the picture and put it on my dad’s desk, next thing I know I was outside of the pool telling my coach this was something I really wanted to do.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What does it mean to a local swimmer from the Big Island to cross the Molokai Channel?
Leahi Camacho: I’ve grown up watching Ironman, volunteering at different extreme sporting events and have always said I want to do something like that, just as most people do. But soon after the desire bows out because the hype is up. Now that I’m doing something that is pretty dang daunting to me and following through. Also that very few people even know about is so completely unreal to me. Every time I go out to practice people ask “How far today?”, I tell them and then realize, “Holy heck, 26 miles is a long way”. To be the youngest from the Big Island doesn’t really register until people ask if I am. Age is merely a number, regardless of age it is still going to be the toughest physical and mental challenge I have ever faced and that anyone will face. I can’t wait to touch down at Sandy’s [Beach on Oahu], I know tears are going to be a factor, just because it will seem like a dream, it’s a personal mountain for me to climb and when I get to the top I can’t wait to take in the view.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What kind of training do you do to attempt the Molokai Channel?
Leahi Camacho: I train with Steve Borowski, who I have been with since I was 10-ish, I was a chunky little kid who had to be rescued from her first ocean swim. Now though me and two of my teammates Madison and Cara train doubles 3 times a week usually adding up to 9,000-10,000 yards and then the other two days just single workouts that are around 5,000-6,000 yards. I generally do strength training with cords, nothing too hard core, mostly a preventative measure to be sure my shoulders don’t blow out. Then I sneak in 2 long ocean swims a week ranging from 8-15 miles.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Who will be on your escort crew?
Leahi Camacho: I might have the best escort crew around, my coach, who I was afraid was not going to make it. But I now cherish hearing his whistle during my breath just as a little reassurance. The assistant coach, Wendy, who I have gotten super close with over these last few years, especially in 7th grade when she was my math teacher and come to find out we both swam. My dad, who had raised me and has always been my support team in himself. I just really wanna make him proud.

Possibly another swimmer who may swim the night portion with me, Jonah Hu. We have been friends for a long time and he’s pretty comfortable at night. Then of course my wondrous kayakers Steve Haumschild and Jeff Kozlovich, the dynamic duo of the [Hawaiian] channels. Of course, Captain Matt Buckman and possibly a doctor, Michael Traub, a family friend and also my support system.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What worries you about the crossing?
Leahi Camacho: My biggest worry are the cookiecutter sharks. Hearing the horror stories about some guy getting a chunk taken out of his chest is kind of unsettling. I’ve become aware that I will get stung, it will be deep, and I will be sore. Cookiecutters are my nightmare come true. Yeah I would definitely be scared if a tiger shark popped up. Who wouldn’t? But as long as I don’t go poking around at it, I hope it’ll leave me alone. Secondly is getting hurt or stung to where I can’t finish, that would be heart-breaking, not just to me but I feel like my crew and the team at home would be a little upset.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What do your parents think about your attempt?
Leahi Camacho: I told my mom at dinner when she came to visit me, she kinda looked at me and was like “okay…why?” I explained to her and I don’t think she took me seriously until I called her after my first long swim in training. My dad, just wrote back on the note “we got the boat, go hoops” (which has been my name from him for I have no idea how long). I feel like it was a lot if disbelief among them, until we paid the deposit for the boat and my training was in full swing.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What other open water swims have you completed?
Leahi Camacho: Marathon swimming is rather new to me. I mean I’ve heard of it, but I have never competed in insane distances. The furthest before I started training was the Ali’i Challenge, back when 6 miles was insane to me. But I have swum the 1.2 course right in my own back yard hundreds of times. Last summer I was lucky enough to capture the Triple Crown title for the ocean swim series on the Big Island. I feel like our team has always been really strong in the ocean, pool distance; certain people can run us down, but plop them in the ocean and it’s a whole new ball game with the umpire Mother Nature calling the shots.

Ka’iwi is going to be quite a journey but I really want to be an inspiration to someone, to show people that they just gotta get up, they can move mountains and inspire someone else to be great. I feel like there is no greater burden than great potential. We gotta go out there and fight for it.

The young lady from the Big Island of Hawaii is certainly wise beyond her years.

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