Billy Brown is first Hawai‘i resident to swim Strait of Gibraltar

NAWILIWILI — Billy Brown, coach for the Swim Kaua‘i Aquatics program, is the first Hawai‘i resident to swim the Strait of Gibraltar.

Brown, helping coordinate the July 4th Stand-Up Paddle and Swim event at Kalapaki Beach, said he had been practicing and conditioning for the swim for a couple of months before attempting the swim, May 26.

“I gave myself about six hours to swim the channel,” Brown said. “But I finished the swim in three hours and 39 minutes, the 32nd fastest time.”

Brown said he swam the strait without the use of any wetsuit, placing him the 332nd swimmer to do the Gibraltar Strait without the aid of wetsuit. He said totally, there have been at least 480 other swimmers, including the 332 wet-suited swimmers, completing the swim.

“But I’m the first from Hawai‘i,” Brown said. “The water was 64 degrees which is pretty cold.”

Leading up to the swim which Brown said he had planned for within a 2.5-week window, he is grateful to his local sponsor, Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors Catering for their providing him with “unlimited ice” during his conditioning.

“I would go and pick up dinner and enough ice to fill my bathtub for about 12 weeks,” Brown said. “Then, I would be sitting in 54-degree water for two hours while my dog would be playing with me because it knew I couldn’t go anywhere.”

The Strait of Gibraltar is the shortest distance which connects Europe and Africa, Brown said. It is also the division between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

“When I was 16 years old, I would dream about this during studies of the world,” Brown said. “That small strip of blue was about the size of my fingernail and I kept looking at the blue, noticing it was the same hue of blue as the Hawaiian Islands. ‘I could do this,’ I kept telling myself.”

He also joined a team of relay swimmers in swimming the Kaua‘i Channel, one of the rare feats in the swimming world.

During the 13-mile Gibraltar swim which came on the fifth day of his 2.5-week window, Brown said he encountered about six pods of pilot whales and had some really close calls with tankers.

“It’s one of the top seven straits of the world,” he said. “It’s really busy (with traffic).”

With one of his life dreams fulfilled, Brown said he hasn’t figured out what he wants to do next.

“For now, I’ll just concentrate on the kids,” he said.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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