Into the Blue We Go
Bill Goding stands at the edge of the Ala Moana Beach Park swim channel.
It’s a beautiful Friday morning. The water is calm. The trade winds are light and the post-dawn orange glow is lingering in the eastern sky. He adjusts his goggles, tugs at the waistband of his skin-tight jammers, and curls his toes wet sand. He takes a few deep breaths as he wades into the water and then he lunges gracefully into the swim channel, embarking on the first a few morning laps.
Bill is a retired lifeguard—he’d been stationed at Ala Moana Beach Park for 15 years of his service—and now a member and volunteer at the Waikiki Swim Club. An avid swimmer, he’s been meeting up with a salty crew of swim club athletes every Friday for years at the Ala Moana swim channel, one of his favorite locales for a quick and invigorating ocean swim.
“Waikiki Swim Club started in 1971 and would meet at Ala Moana Beach Park every Saturday morning to swim a 1K or 2K in the channel,” Bill says. “The poles that mark the area are still there to this day.”
The Ala Moana Beach Park swimming channel is one of most popular swimming sites in Hawai‘i. The channel was blasted out of the reef and dredged in the late 1920s to create a boat channel joining Kewalo Basin Harbor and Ala Moana Boat Harbor. A decade later, the marshy wetland area around the channel was designated as a park, initially named Moana Park. In 1955, the west end of the channel was closed with a landfill that created Kewalo Basin Park, and in 1964 the east end was closed with another landfill that created Magic Island. The result was a 20-foot deep, 1,000-yard long protected channel, perfect for safe ocean swimming, just steps off of the popular Ala Moana Beach.
“It’s like a giant swimming pool, protected by the shallow reef offshore,” Bill says, “It’s very accessible and you don’t have to worry about ocean critters—just look out for jellyfish once a month. It’s always the eighth through the eleventh day after the full moon, and it’s posted at the beach.”
With nearly perfect ocean conditions year-round, ample parking, and showers nearby, a cadre of enthusiasts frequent the Ala Moana swim channel on a regular basis. Bill says it’s a favorite training ground for beginner swimmers, competitive swimmers, hard-core rough water swimmers who brave open ocean channels, biathletes, and triathletes.
For many long-time ocean swimmers and members of the Waikiki Swim Club, swimming the Ala Moana channel is a stepping stone to prepare for the many open ocean channel swim competitions and long-distance races across the state. If you’re interested in simply staying fit—or are training for your first triathlon—the Ala Moana channel is an ideal way to take your swim game to the next level.