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 thinking of ways to break out of his monotonous routine. With his athletic background and lifestyle, Alex wanted to complete an athletic feat no one in the history of humanity had done. Pitcairn Island had been calling his name ever since elementary school, so in 2018 when recovering from shoulder surgery Alex began preparing to be the first person to successfully circumnavigate the island. Pitcairn Island has approximately 50 permanent inhabitants and is one of 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, the island 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 big swells and strong currents the morning of the attempt, Alex was determined to create his record:

“I fought my way out into deeper waters, but it didn’t get any smoother."

“The water was literally like a washing machine, waves coming from every direction and battering my arms as I tried to stroke forcefully,” he writes:

“Heading to Pitcairn was an endurance ordeal. We were prepared for three travel days, including two days at sea on a cargo ship taking supplies to the island. What we were not expecting were huge swells and gale-force winds that tossed us around on the boat for over 48 hours. I was not particularly optimistic upon first sight of the island. It was shrouded in clouds and rain and there were nine-foot swells against the shore. With only three days on the island, I didn’t know if I’d even have a chance to circumnavigate it. The conditions were too dangerous for a swimmer and support crew.

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

My kayaker was Ian Lawson, a Scottish New Zealander on assignment for 15 months on Pitcairn as the resident doctor. He strapped my two Hammer Nutrition water bottles tight to the hull of his kayak and tucked a few Peanut Butter Chocolate Hammer Gel packets into his life preserver. The swim was predicted to be about 10K but I had no idea how long it might take given the conditions. My two bottles each contained water and two dissolved tablets of Cola Endurolytes Fizz. I figured I’d need the caffeine boost at some point during my swim.

At the first break in the incoming wave sets, we were off, me leading the way through the surge, Ian following closely behind in the kayak, and my support crew on a motorized boat directly behind him. The waves and currents were strong, but after about an hour it calmed slightly as I turned around the northern tip of the island. The waves died down as we were on the more protected east side of Pitcairn and I chose to make the first of my two feeding stops. If the currents and waves picked up it would be impossible to stop swimming without getting a face full of waves, so I took a few decent gulps from my Hammer bottle and kept swimming.

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

Becoming the first person in the world to circumnavigate this historic island has still not really hit me. I do know that I would not have been able to do it without Hammer’s support or their terrific products. Thank you, Hammer!”

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