Hapuna Roughwater Swim


By Rick Winters - West Hawaii Today 

KOHALA COAST — Contrary to its name, the Hapuna Rough Water Swim took place under smooth conditions as a group of elite, young swimmers battled to the finish in the 39th annual event along the Kohala coast on Sunday.

Taking place on the north side of the beach, Academy Swim Club’s Brock Imonen claimed first place overall with a time of 23 minutes and 36.29 seconds. He was followed by Weylin Foo (23:38.14) and Bodhi Whitmore (23:40.13) rounded out the top three.

In the female division, Taylor Doherty and Maile Lawson — teammates at Hawaii Preparatory Academy but rivals on the club swimming scene with Doherty competing for Academy and Lawson competing for Kona Aquatics — produced a photo finish at the line. Doherty just edged Lawson by four-tenths of a second.

Doherty finished fourth overall with a time of 23:40.38. Lawson was fifth at 23:40.79 and Noelani Vargas rounded out the top three with a 14th place overall time of 24:37.62.

The top 10 swimmers all stayed in a tight lead pack with only 19 seconds separating the first place person from the 10th.

“I knew Doherty was right behind me and so was Bodhi, who passed me right before the finish last time,” Imonen said. “I had to make sure I cut the final buoy close so he could not pass me this time and then it was a sprint to the finish.”

For Doherty, she and Lawson knew it was down to them as they passed that final buoy.

“I swim with Maile a lot and I know her swim suit and goggles well,” Doherty said. “As soon as I made that last turn on my left side, we saw each other and kind of smiled. I knew it was going to be her or I and now we had to kick it into gear.”

Both Lawson and Doherty touched the sand at about the same time, but Doherty managed to out-sprint her competitor in the short run up the beach, edging her shoulder in front of Lawson for the win.

“She (Doherty) is an awesome competitor and is a good swimmer to pace from behind,” Lawson said. “This was a great race with an awesome finish and it was really fun.”

The Hapuna Rough Water swim was the second leg of the Big Island’s Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.

The first leg of the competition, the Cinco de Mayo Swim, took place at Anaehoomalu Bay in Waikoloa. Aapo Eerola won the event, but the HPA boarder is back at home in Sweden and did not compete at Hapuna.

Whitmore placed second at the Cinco de Mayo Splash and his overall time of 47:07.13 is good enough to take over first place for the Triple Crown after two races. Foo finished third at Cinco de Mayo and his overall time of 47:09.14 puts him in second place. Imonen is third with a time of 47:26.29, making the boys competition a hotly contested affair entering the Kings’ Swim at Kailua Bay on July 4.

In the female division, Karlyn Pipes placed first at Anaehoomalu but was fourth in the division at Hapuna with a time of 24:40.27. Her overall time of 48.25.27 drops her to second behind Lawson, who has a two-race time of 47.28.79 after also placing second at Anaehoomalu. Third place in the female division is tightly contested between Mina Poppas, Noelani Vargas and Kristen Bennett.


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2017 King's Swim


Kona Aquatics is very excited about hosting our 23rd Annual King’s Swim, a 1.2-mile ocean swim here at the Kona pier this Independence Day, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Our race is held to honor King Kamehameha the Great, and it finishes at Kamakahonu Beach where he once lived. Last year’s King’s Swim saw 236 participants finish the race, ranging in age from seven to 79 years of age.

We have fifteen age divisions for both males and females, and awards are given to the top three finishers in each age group. The age divisions are: 10 and under, 11-14, 15-18, 19-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, and 75 and over. Our goal has always been to keep the entry fee at only $15 per swimmer, and so we ask for sponsorships for each division. The $100 sponsorships help to cover all the expenses necessary to put on this first class race: awards, insurance, hospitality, and also to provide assistance for those who are unable to afford the entry fee.

Kona Aquatics age group and masters swim teams now have about 140 total members. Our Masters program is very likely the most “dropped in” Masters workout in the World, averaging three visiting swimmers per workout. The age group team starts swimmers as young as age seven, and prepares them to compete at the high school level, with many competitions along the way. A great number of Kealakehe High School swim team boys and girls grew up with and continue to swim for Kona Aquatics. We are very proud to have several of our kids go on to swim at the college level: Madison Hauanio, Leahi Comacho, Cara Jernigan, and Katie Jefferson are few of our recent graduates who are continuing their aquatic careers. 

We at Kona Aquatics appreciate your contribution, and, as always, your sponsorship will be announced during the event. A check payable to Kona Aquatics may be mailed, or handed, to me, Eric, or Kristen. Mahalo nui for your consideration and support. Wishing you a wonderful year!

Warmest regards,

Coach Steve

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Racing Start Technique Video

Aloha Team. Here is a link to the video that we all reviewed at this afternoon's practice. We will post this up on our Facebook page and will send out the link to the entire team over the weekend. Super excited with the progress the entire team is making with their dives!



Arena Pro Swim Series


Aloha gang! Make sure you wish Maile the best of luck as she prepares for the final leg of the Arena Pro Swim Series which will be held in Santa Clara next week!

Here is the most recent press release from USA Swimming:


May 18, 2017, For Immediate Release:

Many of the United States’ top swimmers – including several Bay Area Olympic medalists – will be in action at next week’s arena Pro Swim Series at Santa Clara for a final tune-up ahead of next month’s Phillips 66 National Championships.

Olympic champions Nathan Adrian (Bremerton, Wash./California Aquatics), Anthony Ervin (Valencia, Calif./SwimMAC Carolina), Katie Ledecky (Bethesda, Md./Stanford Swimming), Simone Manuel (Sugar Land, Texas/Stanford Swimming) and Ryan Murphy (Jacksonville, Fla./California Aquatics) are expected to highlight the field for the June 1-4 event at Santa Clara’s legendary George F. Haines International Swim Center.

The four-day meet opens Thursday, June 1, with a 5 p.m. PDT timed-final, distance freestyle session and continues throughSunday, June 4, with daily prelims at 9 a.m. PDT followed by finals at 5 p.m. Single- and all-session tickets are on sale now online.

Among the additional Team USA Olympians slated to swim include men’s individual medalists Conor Dwyer (Winnetka, Ill./Trojan Swim Club), Matt Grevers (Lake Forest, Ill./Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatic), Cullen Jones (Irvington, N.J./Wolfpack Elite), Chase Kalisz (Bel Aid, Md./North Baltimore Aquatic Club) and Josh Prenot (Santa Maria, Calif./California Aquatics). On the women’s side, Cal standout Kathleen Baker (Winston-Salem, N.C./SwimMAC Carolina) and Elizabeth Beisel (Saunderstown, R.I./Bluefish Swim Club) are individual medalists expected to compete.

Three days of television coverage from Santa Clara will air on NBC Sports Network, including live telecasts at 8 p.m. EDTon Friday, June 2 and Sunday, June 4. The Saturday, June 3 action will be broadcast on delay at 1:30 a.m. ET on June 4. All three finals sessions also will be streamed live via NBC Sports. A live webcast also will be available at

This event is the fifth and final stop of the 2017 arena Pro Swim Series. The men’s lead is shared by U.S. Kalisz and Prenot with 38 points, while Olympian Melanie Margalis (Clearwater, Fla./St. Petersburg Aquatics) tops the women’s standings with 39 points.

The arena Pro Swim Series scoring system awards eligible swimmers prize money and points based on first-, second- and third-place performances at each meet in the Championship final only. The prize money and scoring system is as follows: First place, $500 (five points); second place, $300 (three points) and third place, $100 (one point).

At 2017 Phillips 66 Nationals, the point totals will double to 10 points for first place, six for second and two points for third place. The final series tally will be computed after the 2017 Phillips 66 National Championships, slated for June 27-July 1 in Indianapolis, and the prizes will be awarded at that time.

The top eligible male and female overall point total winners in the series will earn a one-year lease of a BMW vehicle, as well as a $10,000 series bonus.



Its Time To Hunt!


The journey to your dreams always starts from Mateusz M.

Not only you are facing problems but actually, we all do. If you’re trying to achieve, there will always be obstacles big or small, we all face them. But what matters is not the obstacle itself but your reaction. “The winners mentality is no matter what, no matter how grim it seems, no matter what people are saying, I know I can win. Play by Play, not letting any opportunity slip by and believing that it’s possible, I can win.”

I hope that this video will help you see your struggle, pain or any hardships in different way. And I hope it will help you to turn your pain into energy to keep going.

Click link below to view video:





The results from yesterday's Cinco de Mayo Ocean Race are in. Click here to view. Congratulations to all KONA Aquatics swimmers for participating and doing a great job (especially our little ones). See you all again next year.

Click here to jump to the results page - Mahalo JTL Timing Systems for the quick turn around. 

By Rick Winters - West Hawaii Today

WAIKOLOA — The Big Island Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming kicked off on Saturday with the first leg of the summer series, the Cinco de Mayo Splash, held at Anaehoomalu Bay.

Hawaii Prep junior Aapo Eerola placed first overall with a time of 23 minutes and 24 seconds. His time was surprisingly, nearly three minutes off the first place time from last year. This was due to the fact that the 2017 course accidentally measured out to 1.2 miles instead of the usual 1-mile distance.

Eerola edged out Bodhi Whitmore (23:27) and Weylin Foo (23:31) in a close battle to the finish for the top three swimmers. Foo won the Cinco de Mayo Splash in 2016, which eventually led to a triple crown win as well in the male division.

In the race for top female, Maile Lawson veered off course after the turn for the second year in a row and this time it cost her as Karlyn Pipes beat Lawson to the finish line with an overall fifth place time of 23:45. Lawson finished just three seconds behind in sixth place overall.

Ku’uleionalani Patterson, last year’s triple crown winner in the female division, wrapped up the top three performances in the division with a time of 23:58, good enough for ninth place overall.

For Eerola, the Cinco de Mayo Splash was the high school distance swimmer’s first race in the open ocean, but the win did not surprise the young man from Finland.

“I knew I had a chance,” Eerola said. “It was a pretty good race, the water was clean, and there were no waves. The biggest challenge was dealing with the current pushing me sideways, but I just kept my head down, my eyes closed and went as fast as I could.”

In the women’s race, Lawson looked to repeat as champion but was having difficulties swimming with the lead pack. She then made a decision, which led to what she called “The Veer, Part 2.”

“I was swimming behind a group of people coming back and they were kind of criss-crossing and I got tired of it, so I went to the right of it,” Lawson said. “I was doing pretty well on the outside by spotting a large palm tree on the beach, but over the last 500 yards I put my head down and sprinted. I did not spot and the next thing I knew I was too far right and everyone on the beach was waving me to go left.”

Lawson, who is rarely in a bad mood after a race, was all smiles after finishing second in the female division.

“It was a fun race and I enjoyed it,” Lawson said. “I was able to race with teammates who had not competed in an open water race before and they did well, and it was good to see that. The conditions were also really nice.”

For Pipes, experience and strategy led the masters swimmer to victory, capping off a whirlwind of activity over the past two months. This was Pipes first overall female victory since 2011.

“I played the race smart and got in a fast group at the beginning, staying in the back of the pack and hanging on for dear life,” said Pipes, who knew she had a chance to win after the turn. “I saw that Maile had veered right coming back and we were even at that point. I realized I had a straight path and knew the course error would cost her.”

Pipes was back on the Big Island after a seven week adventure that spanned three countries and 14 U.S. states. The trip started with Pipes celebrating her 55th birthday by getting married on the Caribbean Island of Nevis.

Pipes then helped Special Olympic swimmers compete in the first Special Olympic relay channel crossing. The event took place between Nevis and Saint Kitts in the shallow two-mile channel named the Narrows.

Pipes wrapped up her trip with several swim meets in the pool, which culminated in the U.S. Masters Spring National Championship in Riverside, California. In her three swim meets on the mainland, Pipes set 13 new USMS National records, several of which she already owned.

“It was a long trip, but the thing that grounds me after meeting so many wonderful people and coming back to Kona, is getting back into the ocean,” Pipes said. “There are no walls, no lane lines, and plenty of interference. It is a scramble out there. You just have to keep swimming and pretty soon you are at the end.”

A total of 232 swimmers finished this year’s Cinco de Mayo Splash.

The next leg of the Triple Crown of Ocean Water Swimming will take place on June 17 with the Hapuna Roughwater Swim. The King’s Swim will wrap up the series on July 4.

The male and female who competes in all three races and has the fastest cumulative time, will be named triple crown winners. Last year. Patterson finished with a total time of 1:08:15. Foo was the fastest male at 1:08:21.

Lawson, who won both the Cinco de Mayo Splash and King’s Swim last year, will have a chance at the triple crown this year after missing the Hapuna Roughwater Swim in 2016 while racing for the U.S. in Fiji.

“Hopefully I will have a shot at the triple crown this year but we will see what happens,” said the modest Lawson. “I feel like I will do better next month at Hapuna, but anyone who swims their best deserves to win.”



3.6 Scholar Athlete Dinner


Our 2017 3.6 Scholar-Athlete Dinner Attendees had a blast!


Congratulations Catilyn, Shaye'Lynn, Archer, Kinsey, Avery, Jacey, Jaxxen, Jeremiah, Sophia, Blair, Cameron, Ethan, Nate, Wesley, Mark, Nolan, Jada, Keaulana, So Myong, Emma, Rebecca, Haiden, Kiana, Luka, Kailey, Kawena, Aiden, Gared, and Finn! 

Lets all meet up with even MORE of our team mates for the next 3.6 Scholar Athlete Dinner! Cheers!

A HUGE Mahalo to the owners and staff at La Bourgogne for hosting our athletes!



What to eat at a meet



Swimming is an intense sport, so all competitive swimmers need to make sure they fuel their bodies with the proper nutrition, in the right quantity, day-in and day-out. 

On race days, it’s important to snack on energy foods between events and stay well-hydrated with water, not relying on energy drinks, sport drinks and energy bars alone.

What the body needs

There are plenty of good food choices for swimmers before a swim meet or practice. For starters, every swimmer should eat small and easily digestible snacks in between events, including: 

  • Apples (Red Delicious & Grannie Smith)
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Pecans & Walnuts (if you’re not allergic)
  • Berries (Cranberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries)
  • Power Bars 
  • Pretzels

Stay Hydrated

Keep a flask of water with you and stay hydrated. You can also add pomegranate juice to your water for a tasty alternative (dilute it 50:50 with your water).

Preparing your food

How the food is prepared is just as important on what foods you eat. 

The night before a meet, it’s important to have a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates, like pasta, rice and beans. 

The morning of the meet, eat a light breakfast high in carbohydrates, like a whole grain bagel or whole grain toast and fruit two to three hours before the event.

Good luck everyone!



5 Ways Parents Can Help



Written and courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

What can parents do to help their children’s performance in swimming and school? I learned about managing thoughts and that parents can help their children achieve great results from and sports parenting expert David Benzel’s webinars*. It comes down to this: swimmers need to start with positive thoughts about themselves. These thoughts or beliefs turn into actions, such as going to more practices or working on their strokes. Those actions will turn into successful results.

That sounds simple, correct? It looks like a foolproof plan for success.





Josiah Wins!

Josiah Makes History at Team Mango Sprint Triathlon

Josiah on his way to victory! 

By Rani Henderson West Hawaii Today

After nearly a decade aspiring for the day he would win his first triathlon, it finally became a dream come true for Josiah Randerson.

On Sunday, the 15-year old Kealakehe Sophomore put together one of the most convincing wins in Team Mango Sprint Triathlon history. Randerson crushed the field by more than seven minutes to win the ¼-mile swim, 14-mile bike, and 2- mile run in a blazing time of 1 hour and 50 seconds.

Not only did crossing the finish line in first mark an incredible win for Randerson, it was also the largest margin of victory recorded in 25 years of Sprint Triathlons. In addition, Randerson earned the remarkable distinction of becoming the youngest Team Mango champion in history.

The best part? Aside from winning, Randerson had no idea of the magnitude of what he just accomplished.

“Yes, I believe you are right,” said Carl Koomoa, race organizer of Team Mango Race events during our interview. “I believe he is the youngest to win the Sprint Tri and probably the youngest to win any Team Mango triathlon event in history. I honestly didn’t think about it until you brought it up. Pretty amazing for a 15-year-old.”

One glance at the winner’s list includes some of the best triathletes of our time. Olympians Tim Don and Matty Reed top the list as both have completed the event in less than an hour. Don currently owns the course record with his time of 53:42 set in 2015. Local professional triathletes Chris Lieto, Tim Marr and Bree Wee have also toed the line.

But on Sunday, it was all Randerson.

After exiting the ¼-mile swim just behind Aiden Ankrum (5:18) to clock in at 5:23, Randerson’s trademark lightening fast transition had him leaving for the 14-mile bike ride on Alii Drive in first.

“When I got to the turnaround at the Pit, I didn’t know how much of a lead I had,” Randerson said. “But when I got to the Sheraton intersection on my way back, that’s when I saw the next biker so I knew I had quite a bit of a lead.”

Randerson added that despite having a cushion, he didn’t want to take any chances and kept his foot on the gas until he hit the run.

“It was hard because I was all alone, so I had to push myself,” he said. “Two things motivated me because I wanted to get a good time. I just imagined that I had to catch up to someone every single minute or, I imagined that someone was there behind me breathing down my neck.”

Either way it didn’t matter as Randerson’s lead from a race best bike split (41:36) and run (13:51) put him nearly a mile ahead of second place, and shattered his finish time from last year by a whopping 11 minutes.

“I was really excited to race this morning,” Randerson said of his third triathlon of the year. “And I’m pretty happy with my finish today as it’s my first triathlon win ever!”

Joe Catanzaro finished in second at 1:07:55, with Mercedes DeCarli taking third overall and first in the women’s division with her time of 1:08:29.

Randerson credits his faster swim-bike-run times to a triathlon-focused training plan.

“I definitely have been doing a lot more training this year,” he said. “Last year I would kind of think of my races as training – it wasn’t very consistent. And so my mom has basically taken over as my coach. She has helped me a lot just organizing my training. It’s really helped as last year I considered my strength to be just the run. This year, my strength is equal between all three.”

Randerson says that he typically wakes at 5 a.m. three times per week to knock out a six to nine-mile run before going to school. From there it’s off to Kealakehe High or what Randerson considers “recovery time,” often wearing compression recovery socks up to his knees until his second workout session of the day.

“Then it’s straight to swim practice that starts at 3:45 in the afternoon which is everyday except for Wednesday,” he said. “I swam on the high school team but now that the season is over, it’s Age Group practice with the Kona Aquatics. I usually do the Hawaii Cycling Club rides on Saturdays, but if there is a swim meet, then I’ll do a trainer ride afterwards. My other ride of the week happens after school on Wednesdays.”

Aside from his determination to master his skills on the racecourse, Randerson also excels in the classroom as an honor roll student holding straight “A’s” for his sophomore year and a 4.0 grade point average. His only blemish came during his freshman year when he received a “B” that resulted to a 3.86 GPA.

With such a bright future ahead and many more years to hone his craft in the multisport world, there is simply no limit to what Randerson will do. But for now, his focus is on April’s Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Triathlon.

“Lavaman is definitely on my radar. Getting a top 15 or top 20 (overall place) would be really good and hopefully 1st in my age group (19 and Under). Today’s win gives me a lot of hope that I’m doing the right thing and I love that. I love being a triathlete.”



2017 Time Standards


2016-2016 Hawaii State Swimming Time Standards Announced!

For the new families and old timers - the 2017 Hawaii State Time Standards are out! The times standards are all short term goals for our swimmers to shoot for!

AAA times are the times that it takes to swim at the Hawaii State Swimming Championships. Only about 15% of the swimmers in the State achieve this level. 

Lets all have a great 2017 swimming season!

Aloha, Steve




Madison Shines


Madison Hauanio, October 2016. Photo: Kelly Cox

OAKLAND, Calif. - The Cal State East Bay swim team followed up a four-way duel victory at Mills College on Friday with a dominant performance on Saturday to take first place at the annual Bay Area Invitational.

The Pioneers tallied 696 points to lead a six-team women's field that included Chapman, Biola, College of Idaho, UC Santa Cruz, and the host Mills. 

East Bay notched a first place finish in 13 of the 14 races this morning, including all three relays: the 400 Medley, the 800 Free, and the 200 Free.

"I was extremely pleased with the effort and attitude today," said head coach Shane Pelton. "I challenged them with a lot racing and some difficult events. Each and every member of this program stepped up and raced hard, and I think some even surprised themselves with how well they did."

Individually, Kayleigh Davidson won the first race of the morning, the 1650 Free, with a time of 18:25.01, followed by Ryleigh Weight in second. The Pioneers finished 1-2-3-4 in the next race, the 100 Back. Madison Hauanio notched the victory in 58.73, followed by Mariam LoweMorgan McClure, and McKenna Stevulak.

Claire Beaty out-touched Lisa Tixier of Biola by four hundredths of a second to claim first place in the 100 Breast with a time of 1:08.54.

Freshman Victoria Zukeran won the next race, the 200 Fly, in 2:11.57, just ahead of teammates Vivy Hua and Madison Faulkner in second and third place. Hua was victorious in the following event, the 50 Free, with a time of 24.94. Later in the morning she won the 100 Fly in 59.65.

The only race the Pioneers didn't win was the 100 Free, as College of Idaho's Madison Kelly bested newcomer Shelby Parker, who finished in 55.71.

Hauanio posted her second win of the day in the 200 Back (2:06.54), out-pacing Lowe in second and Miranda McDonnellin third. She also took first place in the 400 IM, besting the next closest swimmer by more than five seconds with a time of 4:35.89.

Davidson made it a sweep of the distance events with a win in the 500 Free (5:20.82), topping teammate Kali Kearns in second place.

"I was impressed with Kayleigh Davidson and Ryleigh Weight over the course of this weekend," Pelton noted. "Both of them were fantastic in the distance freestyle events, not only posting great times, but they swam their races with great strategy and execution, which is exactly what we were aiming to do as a team."

Led by Hauanio, McClure, and Beaty, the Pioneers have posted some of the top times in all of Division II in several events early in the season. They'll take a step up in competition in two weeks when CSUEB visits Davis on Nov. 4 to take on a pair of Division I squads in UC Davis and Nevada.





From bottom left - Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt, Nesta Carter, Michael Frater. 2012 London Olympics World Record 4x100 Relay.

Last week Friday we stoped swim practice to spend time with Michael Frater - 2x Jamaican Olympic Champion and a member of the country's 4x100 World Record Relay team. Michael spent quality with our swimmers to chat about how he sets goals, overcomes his fears during competition, trains, and the importance of balancing education with his sport. Michael was a member of the incredible Jamaican Olympic Track & Field team with Usain Bolt at both the Beijing and London Olympics. 

The crew with Michael and his speed coach. 

Mahalo Michael! We all learned so much from you!

Michael and his 4x100 relay team mates at the 2012 London Olympic Games..



2016 Ironman Opportunity


Ironman Opportunity for Kona Aquatics Swimmers. 

Aloha all Kona Aquatics Swimmers! 

IRONMAN is coming back to town for the Ironman World Championships and we are again looking to hire local staff to work in our event store.

My name is Kaitlyn Ziebart and I will be organizing staff this year for the IM World Championships. The positions available in the event store are not volunteer roles, but are part time, temporary positions that are paid $12/hr. We are looking to hire 20-30 individuals with retail experience, but are willing to train just about anyone who is willing to learn, has a good attitude, is friendly and approachable and hard working.

By accepting shifts in the store as a staff member your responsibilities will include helping set up the store and displays, assisting customers with various needs and questions, restocking, packing, assist in maintaining inventories, providing security throughout the store, breaking down and packing up the store at the end of event. This is a very active work environment so it will be expected that you are willing and capable to lift heavy boxes, bend and reach often and withstand being on your feet all day. The attached document will inform you of additional details about job responsibilities, days and hours available to work, pay rate, and employment requirements. Please review the hours available for work and reply as soon as possible with the times and days you are interested in working.  I will build a schedule based on that information.  The schedule will be created on a first come first serve basis, so reply as soon as you can!

Upon hire, all staff must submit required tax forms and proof of identification prior to work shifts. In addition, all staff must attend a mandatory staff orientation meeting prior to the store opening.  Staff will be paid via a payroll check on October 30th, 2016 to the address indicated on the tax paperwork. 

Please feel free to forward to any friends or family that might be interested in working. Also, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. My mobile number is: (352) 250-1105

Mahalo! Kaitlyn Zeitart

Merchandise Manager - Ironman



Mercedes Ironman Dream


Mercedes and Danny go stroke for stroke in Kailua-Kona.

By Rani Henderson - West Hawaii Today

From within the crowd of spectators, many dreams are born, resolutions proclaimed, and lives changed — all while watching the inspirational accomplishments that unfold at triathlon’s most famous finish line in Kona.

Fifteen years ago, one of those spectators happened to be a shy 6-year-old girl.

It was the 2001 Hawaii IRONMAN World Championships and that little girl was Mercedes DeCarli, who held her dad’s hand as they walked down Alii Drive.

“I remember watching everyone finish,” DeCarli said. “It was the first time my family watched IRONMAN and my mom said that at the finish line, I just looked at my dad and said that I was going to do it someday.”

That year, the October IRONMAN World Championships was a day filled with pride and patriotism as competitors raced in the aftermath of tragic events that occurred on Sept. 11.

The IRONMAN motto “anything is possible” resonated amidst thousands who proudly wore red, white, and blue while ferociously waving their U.S. flags for American Tim DeBoom, who put an exclamation point for his country at the finish line by winning his first IRONMAN World Championship crown.

DeCarli watched in complete awe as one by one, athletes from around the world fulfilled their IRONMAN dreams. She never forgot that day.

“It was the determination that I saw in everyone and even those people who were hurting were still walking toward the finish line because they didn’t want to give up,” she said. “That was something that I knew I wanted to work towards.”

As DeCarli grew older and entered Makua Lani Christian Academy, she played soccer, dabbled in a little tennis and ran cross-country. DeCarli admits to dropping out from the cross-county team during her freshman and sophomore years as she didn’t want to be the slowest person on the team, but stuck it out throughout her junior and senior years.

“I finally sucked it up and learned that I am not a short distance runner,” the 21-year old said. “It was a good experience, but I think my background in soccer really helped because I had the drive to be conditioned for two hours.”

DeCarli then began cycling and was able to attend practices with the Waverider Triathlon Club as her sister, Lexi, attended Kealakehe High School and was also on the team. With running and cycling under her belt, the only sport left was learning how to swim.

“I wasn’t a strong swimmer so one of the things that held me back when I first started triathlon was I needed to teach myself how to breathe while swimming,” she said. “So my sister and I started going to the pool and we eventually taught ourselves how to swim. We knew how to swim but we didn’t know how to swim competitively.”

As she became more proficient in the swim, bike, and run – while also adding weightlifting to her workout regimen — DeCarli gained more self-confidence in her abilities, and began to emerge from being a shy little girl to an outgoing triathlete.

Competing in the monthly Peaman Biathlon events that offered free swim-runs gave her a taste of local competition before entering her first triathlons in 2013 – Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic Distance Triathlon and IRONMAN 70.3 Hawaii.

It was also the year DeCarli graduated from Makua Lani Christian Academy and got accepted into Colorado State University to major in journalism. Thus, it put her dreams of getting a slot at the IRONMAN World Championships on hold for just a little longer.

“I know when my dad and Dan (Gampon) got into IRONMAN in 2013, I’m pretty sure that I cried because my parents did not let me put my name in the lottery because I was going to college,” DeCarli said. “Then they didn’t let me put my name in the following year either for the same reason. In 2015 I put my name in but didn’t get it.”

While at CSU, DeCarli kept active by joining the CSU Triathlon Team working out seven days a week and sometimes twice per day. DeCarli said that having a consistent schedule and other people constantly pushing her helped to make her a better triathlete.

The most dramatic improvement came in her in swim times – going from barely knowing how to swim a few years ago to now beating her dad Michael, an accomplished triathlete, in just about every swim race. And beating her dad out of the water, DeCarli says with a smile, is something she is proud of.

“The team has really helped me,” DeCarli said. “It’s great to get your butt kicked by tons of college kids. We do four races a year, two in the fall and two in the spring, Olympic Distance. College Nationals is crazy. There are 2000 athletes and I don’t even come close to their times. But I have seen my Olympic times improve and I think it is part of the whole competitiveness and just having 30 other girls to compete against to be part of the top seven on the team.”

And now, it’s finally DeCarli’s turn to fulfill her childhood dream.

After receiving a slot to compete in her hometown race from May’s Big Island IRONMAN World Championship drawing, DeCarli decided to take a semester off from college to focus on training and her two part-time jobs that range from 20 to 40 hours per week.

“I think I could’ve pulled it off, but I didn’t want it to come down to the point where I wasn’t enjoying anything anymore,” she said. “Right now I have two jobs and I need to work, and I need to train, so school would’ve just been pushed to the side and I wouldn’t have been able to put forth my best effort. So I made the decision to push it back a semester. School will always be there, but I won’t always have the opportunity to do IRONMAN.”

Some of her hardest training weeks on her schedule include riding over 200 miles on her bike, running near 50 miles, and swimming three times per week. DeCarli says her greatest challenge is to keep herself motivated since she typically trains by herself, and credits her family for their support.

“My dad will run with me to the pier, then Dan (DeCarli’s boyfriend) and my sister will either bike next to me or follow me with their car,” she said. “It’s all about team work. Dan wakes me up in the morning because I sleep through the morning and I can’t wake up. My mom handles my nutrition and recovery.”

DeCarli says she feels grateful to have the opportunity to race in her hometown on Oct. 8 — swimming 2.4-miles in Kailua Bay, riding 112-miles on her bike along the famed Queen Kaahumanu Highway toward Hawi, and having a 26.2-mile run course on Alii Drive that passes near her house.

“I think it’s really special to be able to look back and say that I had this dream since I was six and now 15 years later, I’m going at it. Even though it’s hard you can push through it and it’s amazing what you can put your body through if you just let yourself. I learned that I’m a lot stronger than I think. I really just want to finish and have fun. So the main goal for this one is to have fun and enjoy every step because there’s so much that has gone into it and so many people that have helped me that I don’t want to let them down either.”



Mike Stewart - 2016 World Bodysurfing Champion

KOna aquatics parent mike stewart 2016 bodysurfing world champ!

Congratulations Mike!

The old art of bodysurfing never dies and the 40th annual World Bodysurfing Championships proved, once again, that you don't need much to ride a wave. And for the purists, this is what surfing is all about.

Bodysurfers are judged on how well they bodysurf during their heat. Judges scrutinize wave selection, quality of takeoff, position in the wave, style, length of the ride, maneuvers, and originality.

A perfect performance equals a 10-point ride, and the top three waves are added together to determine the final score. Interestingly, athletes are not allowed to shoot the pier, but they can an should use bodysurfing fins.

The 2016 World Bodysurfing Championships had eight male divisions and six female divisions. The winner of each age division went on to the grand final.

Mike Stewart added another world title to his trophy room; Makena Magro took out the Women's grand final. The conditions ranged from mushy two-footers to hollow four-foot rollers.

"I quickly learned why they called this a swim meet: 15-minute heats, beach start, and top three waves. So, it was total frenzy," said Mike Stewart.




2016 Kukio Blue Water Swim


The 2016 Kukio Blue Water Swim is BACK!


Saturday, September 24th, 2016 will mark the 11th Annual Kuki’o Blue Water Swim. After a 2-year hiatus, the team at Kukio is excited to be bringing the event back and aiming to make it better than ever. The goal is to provide a safe, fun and fair event that promotes a sense of community and encourages an active, outdoor lifestyle.

The race consists of a 1.2 mile swim from Kua Bay to Uluweuweu Bay at Kuki’o. Brunch and an awards ceremony will follow the race at beautiful Kikaua Point Park. 

Entries are limited to 250 participants so register early to save your spot! 




2016 Ali'i Challenge

Pushing Through to the Finish

By Rani Henderson - West Hawaii Today
If you happened to be at Kamakahonu Beach this past Sunday for the finish of the Big Island’s longest running swim event, the Ali’i Challenge, you would agree it had a pleasant grass-roots familiarity to it.

Maybe it was the potluck-style buffet of sliced watermelon, bananas, and delicious homemade muffins displayed on top of a cooler and a makeshift table, or the few random friends and family scattered along the beachside waiting to cheer their athlete in.

After 30 years of hosting the nostalgic Ali’i Challenge 6-mile Rough Water Swim race from Keauhou Bay to Kamakahonu Beach – not much has changed, which to everyone’s delight, is a good thing.

Race director Tom Sena began the Alii Challenge in 1987 to give Big Islanders a long distance swim race of their own. For the first six years, the event began from Kaiakeakua Beach, next to the Kailua Pier, and finished in Keauhou Bay.

However, Sena soon realized that holding a long distance swim during the middle of Hawaii’s hurricane season often produced stronger currents going against the direction of the athletes. So to take advantage of a following current, he decided to change the direction of the race, starting from Keauhou Bay and finishing on Kamakahonu’s sandy beach. And it’s been this way ever since.

Yet what athletes appreciate the most is Sena’s laid-back and low-key approach - keeping it fun, first-class, and a family-oriented event. It’s no wonder the Alii Challenge continues to thrive year after year.

Nice job Kristen! 2016 Ali'i Challenge Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. #swimhairdontcare  :)

“Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen,” Sena counted as he waited eagerly on the beach for the first finisher with his good ol’ fashioned timing system - a pencil, paper, and wristwatch. “Yep, that’s Daniel Kniseley but he won’t be here for long. I think he’s got to go to work somewhere.”

Kniseley, last year’s Triple Crown Swim Series winner, competed in the “solo” division and claimed his first Alii Challenge victory with his winning time of 2 hours, 18 minutes and 20 seconds. The 55-year old’s time was just shy of Jim McCleery’s 2012 Men’s Master (40-59 years) Individual record of 2:18:00.

And Sena was right. Not a minute after he finished, Kniseley ran out of the water and out of sight.

Sprinting toward the finish in second place and first overall in the relay division were the team of Ryan Cohen and Matthew Ostream with their time of 2:29:48. Both attend and swim for Hawaii Preparatory Academy and are 16-years of age.

“I swam it last year,” Cohen said. “Because the current was against us for the second half of the race last year, I felt that the race was a lot easier this year. The current was with us and things were pretty calm.”

Ostream agreed that this year’s conditions were near perfect with the exception of feeling some seasickness that became a mental challenge.

“The only time the ocean got rough was when the boats would pass by and cause some waves but that’s the most bumpy it would get,” Ostream said. “This was my first (Alii Challenge) but I think swimming might not have been physically the hardest. It was paddling on the board that made me kind of sick so mentally that was the toughest challenge. I got sick a couple of times but once I got back into the water then I felt okay.”

Third overall and second in the relay division were the dynamic duo of Kealakekua’s Tori Oshiro and Duke “smiley” Becker with their time of 2:33:29. Rounding out the third spot in the team division were Sarah Sermons and her younger brother, Chris Chang, with their time of 2:39:10.

Following Kniseley in the men’s individual race was Keola Oka who finished with a time of 2:41:15 – knocking off an impressive 21-minutes from his time last year. Rob Murray followed in sixth overall and third for the men in 2:50:10.

In the women’s individual race, Kona’s Kristin Old claimed her first Alii Challenge victory with a time of 2:49:20.

“Today was challenging probably more mentally than it was physically,” Old said. “I had a good support crew, Annalee Akagi and her friend Grant, so they kept it positive and kept cheering me on. It felt good till probably the IRONMAN buoy because we had a nice little current, but then after that I felt like we lost a bit of the current. I think for an endurance event like this it’s always more of a mental challenge than a physical one.”

Old, a math teacher at Kealakehe High School and advisor for the Waverider Triathlon Club, added that she swam 8-minutes faster this year and attributed her success to a season paddling with Kai Opua and her focus on endurance training for October’s IRONMAN World Championships. Old is also hopeful to be able to make the women’s crew for September’s Molokai Channel canoe race.

Duke Becker, Kona Aquatics. 2016 Ali'i Challenge.

“I think it’s an endurance thing,” Old said. “The most challenging was trying to stay positive. But when you can mentally push through something as challenging like this, it helps you with the mental aspect of IRONMAN or the mental aspect of distance paddling. You just know that when you put the hard work in, then you can cash it in.”

Rounding out the next two spots in the women’s division was Catherine Spina in 2:58:30, and Denise Boatwright in third at 3:27:30.

When all was said and done, it would be a few jellyfish stings, mouthfuls of watermelon, and lots of smiles summing up Sunday’s 30th edition of the Ali’i Challenge - and with Old’s final remarks putting it all into perspective.

“It can never be a bad day when you get to swim in the ocean like here in Hawaii.”

August 19, 2016 - 12:05am
Kristin Old won the women's individual competition at Sunday's 30th Annual Ali'i Challenge 6-Mile Rough Water Swim race in a time of 2:49:20. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)



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Swimming Should be America's Favorite Sport


The significance of swimming as an Olympic sport seems at odds with the treatment of the sport in America.

Written by: Marcie Bianco, August 16, 2016. Quartz.

For approximately ten days every four years swimmers are given a global audience. US swimmers in particular tend to shine in the Olympics’ spotlight. This year alone, US swimmers garnered a whopping 16 gold medals, with 33 medals overall—to put that in perspective, Australia won the second-most gold medals, three, with a medal count of 10 overall. The indomitable Katie Ledecky. The barrier-breaking Simone Manuel. The history-making Michael Phelps. These are just a handful of American swimmers that helped the sport, along with women’s gymnastics, drive television ratings during the first week of this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.

Yet the significance of swimming, both as an Olympic sport and as a source of national pride, seems at odds with the treatment of the sport in America. Outside the Olympics, swimming is almost never mentioned in the media, which reflects the more pointed fact that swimming is given far less institutional support than other sports, particularly at the collegiate level. This is particularly unfortunate given that Olympic glory aside, swimming is arguably one of the best sports for exercising both your mind and your body. So why don’t we treat it as such?


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