The last one out of the water for the children’s open water swim at the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge was Chiara Doyle.
The 4-year-old was a solid two minutes behind everyone else.
But when she ran onto the shore, joined by dad Chris Doyle, the crowd cheered and applauded wildly.
And, as father and daughter walked through the finishers’ chute, the roar rose.
There, dad gave his daughter a kiss, a hug, and held up her ribbon.
“I’m so proud of her,” the Honolulu man said. “I had tears in my eyes when we was coming in. She persevered all the way to the end.”
The seventh annual event attracted a festive, happy crowd to Hanalei Bay Saturday morning. There were two races for kids: one for those age 8 and under, and one for those 9-12 years old. There were another two races for adults: a 3,000-meter race and a 1,000-meter race.
With calm waters and sunny skies, conditions were picture-book perfect.
“I thought it was fun,” said Kawika Goodale of Hanalei after finishing the 1,000. “I only got kicked once, not too bad. I made it.”
Goodale competes in the swim each year and is a member of Namolokama Canoe Club, which organizes the fundraiser.
“Look at it here,” he said, pointing toward the water. “It’s beautiful. You can see the bottom the whole way. Look at everybody, kids, adults, everybody just stoked.”
Indeed, they were.
Before the first race got underway around 10 a.m., swimmers milled about and chatted with friends as they enjoyed the warmth of the rays.
“This swim brings everybody together,” said Leo McCarthy of Kalihiwai.
“I just think the people here are extremely healthy people, and this is a way to stay young and healthy for all ages.”
McCarthy, a five-time Ironman, planned to compete in the 3,000 meter swim.
“I’m just going as hard as I can and see what happens,” he said.
He would love to see more come out, too.
“I just think this is one of the most beautiful swims in the world,” he said. “All the surfers and all the water people on Kauai, they can all handle the 1,000. They should come out, have a great time and get a good T-shirt.”
John Miranda, who recently moved to the North Shore from Colorado, was entered in the 3,000 — his first open water swim. He said his neighbor and former race organizer, Dick Smith, motivated him settle here and swim, too.
“His exceptional physical condition convinced me that this is the place,” Miranda said.
“My other neighbor is on a paddle board. He said he would make sure I went under — I mean, kept me up,” he said, laughing.
Smith, by the way, was swimming in the event for the first time after being in charge for six years. He was competing in the 3,000, though he wasn’t sure how it would go.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” he said.
Swim coach Billy Brown brought some Junior Lifeguard members to the race.
“We love doing ocean stuff, so it’s great to get out there,” he said.
Brown usually competes in the swim challenge, but since he’s preparing for a channel swim, he decided to watch and root, instead.
“I’m not in racing mode right now,” he said. “I’ll just cheer them on today.”
Brown pointed to Phil Kim as one who could win the 3,000.
“I only put down 50 bucks saying it, so he better not make me look bad,” Brown said, laughing.
Kim, of Wainiha, is a North Shore lifeguard. Unlike Brown, he declined to predict a winner.
“I really don’t have any expectations,” he said. “I’ll just go, give it my all and see if I can hang with everyone else.”
Later, Kim almost proved Brown right after finishing second in the 3,000 at a time of 27 minutes, 40 seconds, just behind Todd Robinson of La Jolla, Calif., who finished in 27:03.
“That was longer than I thought it was going to be,” he said.
Tim Roth of Sisters, Ore., placed sixth in 29:06. He entered the race after reading about it during his vacation here.
“It was fun being to see the bottom when you’re 30 feet up,” he said.
Grant Bowers of Phoenix won the 1,000 in 11:51, despite getting a bit off course toward the finish and swimming parallel to the beach before running it in.
The 17-year-old took the lead about the halfway point after drifting off course early, too.
“I just tried to finish strong,” Browers said.
Kids didn’t just splash around. They swam well.
Mason Tucker, 8, of Princeville was first to finish swimming in the 8 and under division, but Tommy Hami of Hanalei charged past in the final yards to get the win in 4:36, while Tucker was a second back.
Mason said the race started before he was ready.
“I was like brushing my goggles and it was ‘Go,’ and I had to put them on and jump in quick,” he said.
Hamai was thrilled to surge at the end and get first place.
“I felt good that I was going to win,” he said.
Julia Safford, 11, of Lihue, won the 9-12 girls division, finishing in 3:18, well ahead of Taylor Leslie of Greenbrae, Calif., in 3:34.
“Good,” Safford said when asked how she felt after the race.
Matt Burrell, 11, of Aptos, Calif., was first across in 3:45 to win the 9-12 boys division.
“It was really tiring,” he said.
Kailoa Forrest of Hanalei is normally a paddler but decided to swim Saturday. He completed the 1,000 in 17:55.
“It was tough,” he said, grinning. “It was like what I am not used to doing.”
Then, there were kids who took on the adults at their own game.
Kai Norman, 9, of Koloa swam the 3,000 with his dad, John. Kai came through first, finishing in 40:24 ahead dad’s 40:27.
“He is a strong swimmer,” the grinning dad said of his son.
And what did son Kai think?