Caught on camera: Sharks join woman on Kaiwi Channel swim

Photo: Aaron M. Begle

A close call for a swimmer attempting to swim the Kaiwi Channel from Molokai to Oahu last week.

About four and a half hours into her swim, a tiger shark swam up to her and would not leave her or her crew alone.

Ranie Pearce is an experienced long distance swimmer. She’s swam several channels, including the English and Catalina channels.

This time, she believes there were at least two sharks near her, and she even saw a tiger shark swim right under her.

“I definitely felt terror,” she told KHON2. “I don’t think I would have been able to swim through the night knowing that he was out there.”

A kayaker on her support team first spotted the approximately 9.5-foot tiger shark.

“I had polarized goggles on so I could see perfectly, and I wish I couldn’t. I don’t know if I will get those visions out of my head,” said Pearce.

The kayaker tried to put himself between Pearce and the shark, and eventually the boat approached them to do the same thing.

“I looked down and there he was, and he swam right under me,” Pearce said. “I could have reached out and touched him with my foot, and I could feel his slip stream as he went by.”

Pearce says she was seasick for at least an hour, and believes that’s why the shark might have been so close.

Videographer Aaron Begle said “when the boat comes, it scares the shark away momentarily, but the shark comes swimming right back to her.”

Pearce eventually made it back on the boat and chose not to finish the swim.

We sent the video clip to Leahi Camacho, who finished the 26-mile stretch in 2013 at the age of 17.

“I’m shaking. I cannot believe that that happened,” Camacho said. “There is no more preparation you can do than a mental preparation. You are never going to know with those elements. Channel swimming is something you have no idea what it’s going to throw at you.”

Camacho added, “I love sharks and I’m a huge advocate for them. I understand that we enter their territory when we go into the ocean.”

KHON2 asked Pearce if she has plans to do it again.

“I don’t know. Everyone keeps asking me that,” she said. “I think it’s too soon for me to answer that.”

Kaiwi Channel footage provided by Aaron M. Begle.

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