Featured Athlete Alex Kostich

Swimming with Sharks


BY ENDURANCE NEWS STAFF

While swimming in his usual pool day after day, former USA National Team swimmer Alex Kostich started thinkingof ways to break out of his monotonous routine. With his athletic background and lifestyle, Alex wanted to completean athletic feat no one in the history of humanity had done. Pitcairn Island had been calling his name ever sinceelementary school, so in 2018 when recovering from shoulder surgery Alex began preparing to be the first personto successfully circumnavigate the island. Pitcairn Island has approximately 50 permanent inhabitants and is oneof the four South Pacific islands referred to as the Pitcairn Islands. A high island formed from a volcanic hotspot,Pitcairn itself is accessible only by boat and was settled by mutineers from a British sea vessel in 1789. Today, theisland remains isolated, aside from the large shark populations that call these waters home.The 9.8K swim through unforgiving seas would be anything but easy for Alex. Though he was met with bigswells and strong currentsthe morning of theattempt, Alex wasdeterminedto create hisrecord:

I fought my way out into deeperwaters, but it didn't get anysmoother."

The water was literally like a washing machine, waves comingfrom every direction and battering my arms as I tried to strokeforcefully, he writes:

Heading to Pitcairn was an endurance ordeal. We were preparedfor three travel days, including two days at sea on a cargoship taking supplies to the island. What we were not expectingwere huge swells and gale-force winds that tossed us aroundon the boat for over 48 hours. I was not particularly optimisticupon first sight of the island. It was shrouded in clouds and rainand there were nine-foot swells against the shore. With onlythree days on the island, I didn't know if I'd even have a chanceto circumnavigate it. The conditions were too dangerous for aswimmer and support crew.

Steady rains and wind continued through the first two days onthe island. On our third and final day, the skies parted and thesun came out at dawn. Even though the surf and currents werestrong due to the early winter winds from the northeast, wedecided to go for it after a quick pep talk.

My kayaker was Ian Lawson, a Scottish New Zealander on assignmentfor 15 months on Pitcairn as the resident doctor. Hestrapped my two Hammer Nutrition water bottles tight to the hullof his kayak and tucked a few Peanut Butter Chocolate HammerGel packets into his life preserver. The swim was predictedto be about 10K but I had no idea how long it might take giventhe conditions. My two bottles each contained water and twodissolved tablets of Cola Endurolytes Fizz. I figured I'd need thecaffeine boost at some point during my swim.

At the first break in the incoming wave sets, we were off, meleading the way through the surge, Ian following closely behindin the kayak, and my support crew on a motorized boat directlybehind him. The waves and currents were strong, but after aboutan hour it calmed slightly as I turned around the northern tip ofthe island. The waves died down as we were on the more protectedeast side of Pitcairn and I chose to make the first of mytwo feeding stops. If the currents and waves picked up it wouldbe impossible to stop swimming without getting a face full ofwaves, so I took a few decent gulps from my Hammer bottle andkept swimming.

By the time I reached the southern tip of the island, I had beenin the water for two hours and had about one hour to go. Afteranother feeding stop, I finished the circumnavigation 40 minuteslater, coming in at a little over 10K and with a time of 2:37:45 inrough seas and challenging conditions.

Becoming the first person in the world to circumnavigate thishistoric island has still not really hit me. I do know that I wouldnot have been able to do it without Hammer's support or theirterrific products. Thank you, Hammer!

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