HANALEI —Thomas Gausepohl was after something new Saturday, and he came to the right place.
It was not just his first time entering the annual Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge, but he had never even swam 1,000 meters, the distance of his race.
When the pack ran and dove into the water just after 10 a.m., Gausepohl was in the mist of it all.
“It was pretty hectic at first,” the Kapaa man said. “Everybody just took off, everybody was getting kicked. I just tried to get into the groove.”
Gausepohl stayed the course, finishing in 18 minutes and 33 seconds, second in his 20-29 age group. His friends, Kamaile Kapanui and Smilie Punzel did well, too.
Kapanui of Waimea won her 20-29 age group in the 1,000 in a time of 16:31. It was her first try in the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge and she enjoyed it.
“I was kind of nervous at first,” she said. “My main goal was to try and finish in under a half an hour. I did.”
Punzal of Koloa cruised through the swim in 19:47.
“The water was beautiful. It was a great day,” he said.
About 315 swimmers, kids, teens and adults, took part in the eighth annual event put on by the Namolokama Canoe Club under beautiful, sunny blue skies and calm waters. From the opening race for kids 8 and younger to the longest swim of the day at 3,000 meters, conditions were primed for the best of times.
“The turnout today has been fantastic,” said race director Kawika Dela Sierra. “We started everything on time.”
It was a record number of registered swimmers, too, as the quality of the event and scenic beauty of Hanalei Bay remain a powerful attraction. And it’s not just about who’s the best. The idea is to promote a healthy lifestyle, water safety and friendly competition.
“It’s really growing in popularity,” Dela Sierra said as he surveyed the crowd gathered on the beach. “Everyone seems to be happy and having a good time.”
Indeed, they were.
Jesse Mendonca of Mountain View, California, visiting Kauai for the first time, signed up after seeing a flier for the race. It wasn’t exactly part of his vacation plan when he arrived, but he was undaunted.
“I haven’t swam in a few years,” he said, after finishing with a big smile and chatting with supporters. “I was just trying to make 3,000 in anyway possible.”
Some came in search of fast times.
Grant Bowers of Phoenix won the men’s 1,000 race in 12:30, while Kaira Kaaihue of Lawai placed first in the women’s field, finishing in 13:22.
In the 3,000, Akira Williams of Lawai led the men in 35:52. Kate Machorek of Kalaheo led the women in 34:55.
For the kids 9-12 division, Ryden Williams of Lawai placed first, while Ella Taylor of Hanalei finish first for the girls.
For the kids 8 and under, Jake Grossman of Waimea led the boys in 4:04, while Grace McConnell of Los Angeles led the girls in 3:37.
Three local women swept the 50-59 age division over 3,000 meters.
Kathleen Littlefield of Kapaa took first in 46:03, while Valerie Young of Lawai was second in 47:54 and Corina Potter, who splits time between Princeville and L.A., was third in 58:21. All three were in good spirits after receiving their medals.
“Very enjoyable. I paced myself very well,” said Young, who added she hasn’t been swimming lately.
“Last swim period was 20 years ago,” she added, laughing.
Littlefield, a veteran of the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge, swam with her daughter, Anya, who won the 20-29 age group.
“Great conditions and they do a great job running it,” she said of organizers.
Potter, recovering from foot surgery, was delighted with how the day went. She swam strong in one of her favorite places on Earth.
“It’s Hanalei, it cannot get any better than this,” she said.
Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge Top 10 finishers
Overall – Pier
1 Grace Mcconnell #16, La Canada, CA, :03:37
2 Kiana Kaaihue #11, Lawai, HI, :03:39
3 Joey Meeks #17, Los Slamitos, CA, :03:57
4 Jake Grossmann #9, Waimea, HI, :04:04
5 Sophia Blietz #1, Santa Clarita, CA, :04:08
6 Colt Mccoy #26, Kalaheo, HI, :04:29
7 Leni Mullen #19, Indid, CA, :04:33
8 Lucas Blietz #2, Thousand Oaks, CA, :04:33
9 Sarah Taylor #21, Hanalei, HI, :04:35
10 Parker Mosley #18, Tucson, AZ, :04:38
1 Ryden Williams #128, Lawai, HI, :02:33
2 Campbell Sheehan #146, Hanalei, HI, :02:52
3 Flynn Eastwood #135, San Jose, CA, :02:56
4 Merrick Larbig #112, Kilauea, HI, :02:58
5 Ella Taylor #123, Hanalei, HI, :02:58
6 Kassy Mccoy #132, Kalaheo, HI, :03:02
7 Lucas McSweeny #141, Koloa, HI, :03:07
8 Claire Gillaspie #109, Kaleheo, HI, :03:08
9 Matt Burrell #104, Aptos, CA, :03:09
10 Mason Tucker #125, Princeville, HI, :03:11
Overall – 1000M
1 Grant Bowers #214, Phoenix, AZ, :12:30
2 Grant Levy #338, Beverly Hills, CA, :12:41
3 Jack Machorek #329, Halaheo, HI, :13:12
4 Bryson Baligad #203, Kapaa, HI, :13:22
5 Kaira Kaaihue #249, Lawai, HI, :13:22
6 Eden McMullen #264, Long Beach, CA, :13:43
7 Hanna Landry #254, Riverside, CA, :13:48
8 Mitchell Landry #255, Riverside, CA, :14:01
9 Chad Sloggett #304, Hanalei, HI, :14:12
10 Asa Hendrickson #309, Lawai, HI, :14:25
Overall – 3000M
1 Kate Machorek #670, Kalaheo, HI, :34:55
2 Akira Willams #650, Lawai, HI, :35:52
3 Caroline Stelte #646, Fayetteville, AR, :36:05
4 James Hardie #614, Laguna Hills, CA, :36:23
5 Jeff Casey #605, Waimea, HI, :37:44
6 Saber Fairbank #657, Lihue, HI, :37:54
7 Thomas Potter #640, Princeville, HI, :39:06
8 John Mcmullen #630, Princeville, HI, :39:10
9 Van Cornwell #660, Kaneohe, HI, :39:21
10 Jeremy Wittman #671, Garden Grove, CA, :39:32