Oceans Seven Molokai Channel

“The toughest swim of my life”: Oceans Seven challenger Andy Donaldson completes the Molokai Channel

Scotsman Andy Donaldson has passed the halfway mark of his Oceans Seven Challenge, enduring strong winds, unfavourable currents and severe nausea while swimming the Molokai Channel in Hawaii

Scottish-Indonesian swimmer Andy Donaldson has passed the halfway mark of his Oceans Seven Challenge, enduring strong winds, unfavourable currents and severe nausea while swimming the Molokai Channel.

Swimming in conditions that made him feel like a “rag doll in a washing machine”, Andy completed the 42km crossing between the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Oahu in 15 hours, 51 minutes.

“Not quite the world record,” Andy told us, “but perhaps a more valuable and meaningful experience.”

The Channel of Bones

Nicknamed the ‘Channel of Bones’, the Molokai Channel has earned itself the reputation as one of the world’s toughest swims due to its treacherous waters, and unpredictable weather conditions producing strong winds, relentless currents, and large swells.

Oceans Seven team

Setting off at 7pm into the sunset, Andrew’s first few hours were anything but uneventful. During his first two hours, he was accompanied by a pod of playful dolphins. He was then followed by a shark, which was repelled by the shark shields.

Through the night, he endured large swells, head-on currents, and surface chop which caused nausea and several bouts of sea-sickness.

Relentless conditions

Although still on track for breaking the World Record, nature took a turn for the worse with rising winds (25+ knots) and unfavourable currents which saw Andrew’s pace drop from 4km/h to 1.5km/h. This required resilience and fortitude from Andrew and his team, and after 15 hours 51 minutes, and covering a total distance of 52km, Donaldson finished in Sandy Bay, Oahu.

Immediate following the swim, Donaldson was rushed to emergency care as he was suffering from nausea, dehydration, and a swollen throat that made it increasingly hard for him to breath. Following tests, it was determined that Andrew was experiencing an allergic reaction possibly by swallowing a jellyfish during the swim.

“I was relieved to get across in 15 hours and 51 minutes. Those conditions were relentless and like nothing I’d ever experienced before.” said Andy. “It was certainly the toughest swim of my life, but also one that I’ve learned so much from and will always be proud of.”

Record breaker

Andy’s completion of the Molokai Channel marks the halfway point in his Oceans Seven challenge. So far he has achieved two British records and smashed the World Record for swimming the Cook Strait.

His next swim, the 14km Gibraltar Strait is booked in for next month. His goal is to swim all seven channels in a year. If he succeeds he will be the first person to ever achieve this.

During his challenge, Andy is raising money for the Black Dog Institute, a charity that pioneers mental health research. For Andy, mental health is an issue that’s close to his heart, having lost friends to suicide and experiencing his own struggles with his mental health.

Here are the details of his swim so far, and what he’s got coming up.

English Channel (England to France) – 33km Completed August 2022

North Channel (Ireland to Scotland) – 34km Completed September 2022

Cook Strait (North Island to South Island, New Zealand) – 22km Completed March 2023

Molokai Strait (Molokai to Oahu, Hawaii) – 44km Completed April 2023

Strait of Gibraltar (Spain to Morocco) – 14.4km Planned for May 2023

Catalina Channel (Santa Catalina to Los Angeles) – 32km Planned for July 2023

Tsugaru Strait (Honshu to Hokkaido, Japan) – 19.5km Planned for July 2023

To find out more about Andy’s Oceans Seven challenge, visit his fundraising page and follow Andy on Instagram for updates.

Read our interview with Andy about his he’s fundraising for the Black Dog Institute, and why mental health is an issue that’s close to his heart.

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Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.