Ku'ulei is always smiling! Congratulations!


By J.R. De Groote - West Hawaii Today

KOHALA COAST — There was barely a ripple of surf, but still plenty of action in the water on Saturday morning, as more than 200 swimmers gathered for the Hapuna Rough Water swim.

Ku’uleionalani Patterson found herself at the front of the pack, finishing the 1-mile course in 22 minutes and 26 seconds. She was followed closely by Weylin Foo (22:32:33) — the top male finisher — and Bodhi Whitmore (22:32:66), who crossed less than a second apart.

Patterson has been towards the top of the results at many of the open water swims over the last two years, including a top five finish among females at Hapuna last year and third overall honors at the Cinco de Mayo Splash in May. However, Saturday marked the Kona Aquatics swimmer’s first overall victory.

“It feels good,” Patterson said with a smile. “At the beginning everyone was toppling over me, so it was a little junk. But I was able to catch a draft on the first guy and take a sharp turn at the end to win it.”

Foo, racing out of the 13-14 age division, outdid the competition for his second top-male finisher honor in just over a month. He also won the Cinco de Mayo Splash.

“This swim was a lot of fun, just a little rough,” Foo said. “My coach has been helping me a lot with my stroke and what I need to do to get faster.”

Patterson was accompanied by Tori Oshiro (23:12, fourth overall) and Karlyn Pipes (23:42, fifth overall) on the women’s podium. Jeff Maki (23:44) rounded out the male top three.

A clear day in north Hawaii served as the backdrop to the race, with a strong right to left wind. It was a nice welcome to the water for the swimmers, however, on the triangular, clockwise-course, that blowing turned into a nasty opponent on the way back.

“It was a little difficult getting to that third buoy, but it felt a lot smoother after that,” Foo said.

The wind also decided to get involved in the race as the lead trio reached the shore. As they made the final turn, a large, aggressive buoy decided to make a quick shift, nearly entangling the swimmers. However, all three would escape, leaving just the sprint up the beach.

“It felt like forever,” Patterson said of the short beach run. “I thought I was going to fall.”

The Hapuna swim is the granddaddy of the Big Island’s Triple Crown races, with Saturday’s event marking the 38th edition of the race.

Big Island Sports Hall of Fame Member, Mo Mathews — who is considered one of the grandfathers of the race — finished at 89 years young. Sean “Peaman” Pagett also completed his record 34th Hapuna event, even cracking the top 100.

Triple Crown watch

With two of three events down in the Big Island’s Triple Crown of Open Ocean Swimming, the race is starting to heat up.

The series started with the Cinco de Mayo Splash at Anaehoomalu Bay and wraps up with the King’s Swim on July 4. After the conclusion of the King’s Swim, awards will be handed out to the top male and female swimmers with the lowest cumulative time between all three events.

Foo, with two victories and a combined time of 43:36, is in the driver’s seat for the male title. Jeff Maki, at 45:06, is second.

Maile Lawson reached the beach first at the Cinco race, but was not in the water at Hapuna. She is swimming as part of Team Hawaii at the Oceania Championships in Fiji.

That leaves Patterson as the leader. She currently has a combined time of 43:38, nearly a minute ahead of Tori Oshiro (44:31) — the defending female Triple Crown champ — who is in second place