Cold Water Training In Hawaii

Creating cold water training opportunities in Hawaii is not easy.  After a successful, cold 10 hour 1 minute crossing of the Catalina Channel on October 1, 2014 in 62-68 degree water, an unsuccessful Cook Strait attempt on March 31, 2015 in 60 degree water, and 2 unsuccessful attempts at Apache Lake during SCAR Swim in 2015 and 2016 due to hypothermia, it became important to devise ways to train in cold water while living in Hawaii.  

Sites such as these exist on Oahu and often have water temperatures in the high 50s.  These sites are not always open to the public and may require miles of hiking in order to access them.  From 2016-2018, Steve regularly swam at this site early mornings, tethered to a tree, in order to swim in cold water.

Tether gear (left) can be used to fix the swimmer at a set distance in the middle of the cold pond.

The hazards of fresh water exposure in Hawaii are many and include giardia and leptospirosis.  It is best to avoid swimming with any open cuts, limit water from entering the mouth, ears, eyes, and nose, and to use some form of antiseptic in areas where protection may have been limited.  A snorkel to limit accidental swallowing of water is a must.

Cold water can be established through a variety of ways.  Pictured here is an old Whitehall hydrotherapy tub with a working pump.  The additional green aquarium pump is used to circulate the water between the tub and an attached 1/2 HP water chiller.  This system is insulated with thin foam to minimize heat loss.  It is also connected to a wifi enabled smart plug allowing the user to turn the system on remotely.  It is best to keep it out of the sun.  The hydrotherapy pump can be turned on to create water flow and to enhance convective heat losses.  The system can reach 48 degrees in its current location after running for 2-3 hours.

Blocks of ice can be used in lieu of a water chiller.  This strategy requires a lot of time to fill tubs with water for freezing and once deployed to break the ice into smaller pieces to hasten water cooling.  It also requires a lot of space in the freezer.  It takes approximately 22 minutes and 8, 64 ounce blocks of ice to reduce ambient water temperature below 60 degrees in the same hydrotherapy tub.  It is uncommon to have daily cold plunges due to freezing and preparation time.

Using a methodical combination of the above cold water swimming and plunge techniques while residing in Hawaii enabled successful completions in several cold water and 'colder than Hawaiian waters' events:

Canyon Lake, SCAR- 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019

Apache Lake, SCAR- 2017 (DNF due to crew factors), 2018, 2019 

8 Bridges, 7 consecutive stages, NYOW- 2018 

20 Bridges, NYOW- 2019