HANALEI — For someone who came out just to have some fun, Erick Fleck swam pretty fast in Saturday’s 12th Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge.
Very fast, actually. Fast enough to win.
The Princeville man took first by over 1,000 meters, finishing in 15 minutes, 28 seconds to edge Jon McMullen of Long Beach, California, 15:29, in a sprint finish, while Dylan Thomas of Princeville was third in 16:05.
Fleck only heard about the race on Wednesday and decided to dive in.
“Somebody told me I should try it out, so I did,” said Fleck, who is from Colorado.
He stayed up front throughout as he and McMullen swam stroke for stroke down the stretch. Both rose from the water at the same time about 25 feet from the shore but Fleck was faster afoot.
He took the victory in stride.
“I felt like I was just having fun,” Fleck said. “I’m not too competitive.”
Thomas has completed the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge several times and finishes near the top. When it was done, he talked story with others and recounted how things went.
“I felt better than I thought,” he said.
Michelle Thomas of Princeville won the 1,000 women’s division in 17:52, while Koloa’s Melissa Peck was eighth overall in 18:03.
After an early morning rain passed through, conditions were close to perfect — calm, clear and cool, and the crowd cheered swimmers as they came in.
All told, there were 68 finishers in the 1,000, 55 in the 3,000, 39 in the keiki division and six in the snorkel and fins category.
The swim, put on by the Namolokama O Hanalei Canoe Club, is its only major fundraiser.
Robert Margalis of Costa Mesa took first in the 3,000 in 35:56, followed by Frank Bird of San Pedro in 36:05 and Ryan Leong of Kailua in 36:07.
Beth Margalis, Robert’s wife, led the women in 37:33 while Madeline Hoesel of Kapaa was the top local female finisher, coming in 11th overall in 42:55.
The California couple came out for last year’s Hanalei Bay swim, but it was canceled due to the flooding and ensuring recovery. Since then, they’ve had twin boys, John and Henry, now both 3 months old, and are still swimming strong.
Robert Margalis said he felt great, but had a hard time spotting the buoys
“I got these guys touching my feet, so I focused on moving forward,” he said. “It was beautiful. You can’t ask for a more beautiful location for the swim.”
Beth Margalis said she felt good out there, too
“It was glorious,” she said.
Hoesel, who just wrapped up her competitive season with Swim Kauai Aquatics, was pleased with how the race unfolded, a nice change from the confines of the pool.
“I really like open water, “she said.
Sharon Peck of Lihue was all smiles after finishing the 1,000 in 25:22.
She and her daughter coach Special Olympics. She also enjoys ocean swimming and does so regularly with friends. Several of them came out Saturday morning.
“It was hard, but it was awesome,” Sharon Peck said.
Janet Snyder of Kilauea finished alongside Peck in 25:23.
It went well, she said, but “it always seems longer when you’re out there.”
Kelly Quin of Honolulu cruised to first in the snorkel and fins division, clocking 15:57 to hold off Steve Cole of Hanalei in 19:55.
Quin said she loves to compete in ocean swims, but was nursing an injured right shoulder, so she opted for fins.
She went out fast and furious and never looked back.
“I can swim without them, but I’m just saving the shoulder,” she said.
In the keiki division, Lekili Mendoca of Hanalei was second in 3:41, just behind Alexander Hou of Cincinnati in 3:36.
“I felt really tired,” the 11-year-old Lekili said. “At first I thought, ‘I’m going to do this.’ Then I got tired.”
The Worley siblings of Kauai, Ashlyn, 10, Callie, 7, and Brecken, 5, all finished strong, with Ashley in fourth, Callie seventh and Brecken 15th.
Their mother, Dawn, was proud of them — but not surprised at how well they did.
“They like the water,” she said.
Ashlyn said she was nervous and scared at the start and got “really, really tired.”
“And I choked on some water,” she added.
But she pushed through to claim fourth, which made her happy.
“I love to race,” she said.
Sister Callie said she loves swimming, too, and didn’t get scared when the race carried them into deeper waters about 50 yards out, so no worries.
When asked where she gets her courage from, she shrugged.
“I don’t know,” Callie said.
Her mom does.
“She practices a lot,” she said.