Mike Spalding is an amazing character (one of many we have met through our swimming travels). Amongst other athletic endeavours, he has swum seven of the Hawaii channels, and has been inducted into the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame. He is also a successful businessman, and is 62 years of age.
Mike has been hoping to swim the Alenuihaha Channel (from the Big Island to Maui) for ages and has been waiting for the last two months for a perfect day. When Penny successfully completed this crossing last week (March 10th), Mike was very enthusiatic about her crossing and was itching to get in the water himself. He booked his crossing with Jim Dickson (the same pilot we used) and had an excellent crew, including Linda Kaiser from Oahu. He started from Upolu Point on the big island just after 3.00pm on Monday, March 16th. Figuring it would take him 20 hours, the plan was to swim through the night and finish around lunchtime on Tuesday.
After 5 hours of swimming, he had covered 10 of the 30 mile crossing and was feeling good, and he had great conditions. As it was dark now, he was swimming next to a kayaker. he had run into a few cuttlefish and was getting used to the occaisional “bump”. But at 8.03pm, he felt a bite on his chest. He stopped and said what the @#!&! was that? then he felt another bite on his lower leg. He ran his hand down the back of his calf and felt the divot from the bite mark, 3 inches wide and over an inch deep. He knew then his swim was over.
Mike said his support crew were brilliant. He was on the Kayak and then onto the support boat in a minute. And then a minute later, they had him lying on a bunk with his leg elevated and were controlling the bleeding (there was lots of it, so we were told). The culprit was a Cookie Cutter Shark. A cute name, and a smallish creature, but very nasty. And attacks on humans are rare. Mike just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We visited Mike in hospital and he was in great spirits and already looking at options for his next swim. Good on you mate! For more information on the Cookie Cutter Shark http://www.austmus.gov.au/fishes/fishfacts/fish/ibrasil.htm
And just a final quick plug for one of our sponsors, “Shark Shield” (see links for contact details). Penny used the shark shield on her Alenuihaha crossing and we think Mike may now be buying one. Who knows, it may have kept the cookie cutter away.