Two Homer teens plunged into the cold waters of Kachemak Bay to go on a miles-long swim
It was 5:30 a.m. on a dark morning in August, when Skyler Rodrigues and Leif Restad, both 18, set off from Haystack Beach, located across the bay from Homer, towards the point of the Homer Spit, wearing full-length wetsuits.
It’s a voyage covering roughly half of Kachemak Bay's width.
Rodrigues describes the total distance they traveled as more complex than just point A to point B on a map when factoring in several other variables.
“Accounting for current and that we weren't going in a straight line, we zig-zagged a little bit. It was about four miles,” Rodrigues said.
Local water temperatures in the bay reach dangerous lows, and the highs aren’t much better. If hypothermic symptoms set in, it could impair motor function and drain energy.
Rodrigues and Restad were born and bred in Homer, and both have held an affinity for swimming at various times in their lives.
Rodrigues was on the swim team during high school. Restad has always enjoyed the sport.
But this time, they wanted to push themselves.
To prepare for the strenuous distance and the low temperatures they would experience during the swim, the teens worked to acclimate themselves ahead of time.
They began their training last year, when the trip was originally set to take place. But health issues prompted the teens to delay the swim until this year. Looking back, they say more training may have made things easier.
“We did train. We did a couple of swims hugging the coast of the Spit, a couple of two-mile swims and three miles swims," Rodrigues said.
“And we tried different times, tried to swim along different areas. So we're very familiar with the water. Ideally, we would have conditioned ourselves a little more," Restad added.
This was the teens’ first attempt at swimming the entire route from one side of the bay to the other.
Along with training, the trip also required additional precautions to ensure their safety. The pair was joined by a four-person support crew – two in kayaks and two in a boat – who helped monitor them and make sure other vessels didn’t get too close.
“We had supplies, we had backpacks with certain foods, and we had hot tea,” Rodrigues said. “And we took about a five or 10-minute break halfway through, around 1.8 miles.”
“We were just treading water beside the kayak and they handed us our water bottles,” Restad added.
The two said they couldn’t have done it without the support.
Rodrigues and Restad completed their nearly four-mile-long journey in about three hours. And although they faced a few challenges, they finished without any major problems.
“I'd say around the last quarter mile, my muscles were pretty cold, so I was cramping up a bit. But besides that, endurance-wise, I was fine,” Rodrigues said. “I felt pretty good. My energy was good.”
“Approaching the Homer Spit, we ended up battling a lot of currents in specific areas,” Restad added. “We were passing Gull Island in the last stretch and there was a lot of current, so we'd be swimming for what felt like a lot and then we'd look over and we'd still see Gull Island just as close.”
Rodrigues and Restad said, even as they were pulling themselves out of the water at the end of their trip, the feeling of accomplishment hadn’t yet set in. That wouldn’t come until hours later.