Big Island teen hopes to become youngest person to swim across the Kaiwi Channel

A Kealakehe High School senior hopes to become the youngest person ever to successfully swim across the Kaiwi Channel.

The 26-mile stretch of ocean between Molokai and Oahu is often considered one of the most grueling and treacherous bodies of ocean on the planet.

Leahi Camacho knows she has an opportunity to make history.

“It’s probably the biggest highlights of my life. It’s a journey and I’m so incredibly excited and I know there’s so many people behind me and they’re rooting for me,” Camacho said.

Twenty-six people have successfully crossed the unpredictable Kaiwi Channel — 13 men and 13 women. Camacho aims to become the youngest person to complete the feat at the age of 17.

“My swim from Molokai, it’s something I remember watching the news when I was really little back in 2009 when my friends McKenize Miller did it,” Camacho said.

Miller was 19 at the time. It was at that moment when Camacho made her decision. So she printed a map of the Kaiwi Channel and wrote a note to her father Charlie.

“I wrote, “Maybe oh one day” and I put it on his desk and then a couple of days later, he writes back, ‘We got the boat.’ He’s like, ‘Go Leahi,’” Camacho said.

That was four years ago.

After thousands of hours of training and thousands of miles in the ocean and pool, Team Leahi is scheduled to leave Molokai Saturday at about 10 p.m. with high hopes of landing somewhere near Sandy Beach in the mid-afternoon on Sunday.

“The part of Molokai that I’m looking most forward to is that split second when I push off Laau. It’s like my last time I’m going to be feeling land for 12 to 15 hours,” Camacho said.

She admits one of her biggest worries are cookie cutter sharks.

“Got to block out the negative stuff and realize that there are variables and you can only control your reaction it,” Camacho said.

Camacho wants to share the message that people can move mountains, and it’s important to inspire someone to be great.

“It’s those people that tell me no that kind of fuel my fire. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I just got to do this. I got to prove them wrong.’ Tell me I can’t swim 26 miles, I know I can now. But tell me no, I got this. It will be awesome,” Camacho said.

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