Swimming

27 Hours Later, 15-Year-Old Maya Merhige Becomes Youngest to Swim 28-Mile Kaiwi Channel

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By Riley Overend on SwimSwam

27 Hours Later, 15-Year-Old Maya Merhige Becomes Youngest to Swim 28-Mile Kaiwi Channel

Fifteen-year-old Maya Merhige made history on Thursday night as the youngest person to swim the Kaiwi Channel, completing the 28-mile journey from Molokai Island to Oahu in 27 hours and 33 minutes.

Merhige, a native of Berkeley, California, left Papohaku Beach on Wednesday evening just after 5:30 p.m. Rough conditions during the first nine hours of her trek added an extra 12 hours to the swim’s expected time. She finally reached the shore in Oahu after 9 p.m. on Thursday night.

“I got stuck in strong headwind/current for the first nine hours, so I didn’t make a lot of progress and wasted a lot of my energy at the beginning, which made for a very long swim,” Merhige told SwimSwam. “Regardless, I had the most fantastic time throughout the entire swim. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

At one point, a shark reportedly came about 50 meters away from Merhige.

She’s only two weeks younger than former record holder Edie Markovich, who finished the swim in over 15 hours.

Merhige’s 27-hour swim also makes her a new member of open water swimming’s “24-hour club.” According to Openwaterpedia, the swim ranks as the 137th longest ever in terms of time. There are 205 members of the 24-hour club.

Merhige was swimming to raise money for pediatric cancer. She dedicated the swim to a family friend who passed away from cancer, writing his name, “Sam,” on her cap. She has been working with the organization Swim Across America since she was 9 years old, raising more than $50,000 for cancer research.

Last July, Merhige made headlines for becoming the youngest woman to swim the Lake Tahoe Triple Crown at 14 years old.

Merhige currently competes as a sophomore at Berkeley High School. At last year’s West Alameda County Conference (WACC) Championships, she placed fourth in the 500 free (5:46.65) and seventh in the 200 free (2:11.76).

SwimSwam: 27 Hours Later, 15-Year-Old Maya Merhige Becomes Youngest to Swim 28-Mile Kaiwi Channel

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