This is what Sherrin looked like.
During Day 7 of The Jeju Big Swim (and 6th day of activity) for Friday, August 6th, 2010, we left the beach immediately south of Seongsan at 6:30 a.m., wrapped around Seopjikoji, took a 30-minute onshore break, and got ourselves safely into the Onpyeong Harbor at 1:30 p.m. Approximately 10 kilometers were covered in 7 hours, less than 1.5 kmph.
The entry into the water was rough at Seongsan. The kayak (front and back) was filled with water. Once Sherrin and I got out of the shore surf, I bailed out the front and Sherrin the back with the bottom half of our water-bottle bailer. That didn't matter much. We made a straight line toward turning the corner of Seopjikoji, and when we did there is no need to mince words.
Holy fucking shit!
We entered the South Sea's washing machine from hell. Within the first minute, I caught a high surge up, went down, and going up again caught a half whitewater wave crashing over the sides. Result: the entire kayak was full. I was stable and balanced, but had to work that much harder, with this unexpected weight. Sherrin said we should fend for ourselves in this water mixer. When Sherrin came up for breaths, sometimes there was no air; extending an arm out for a stroke, sometimes there was no water. We were mostly within sight of each other, depending on the waves. We fought this for 1 kilometer. No wave patterns, just a messy blender of water, slowly the tide carrying us south.
Sherrin powered her way through. When I caught a break and clean sightline, I was looking off in the distance for when this might end.
It broke, but now we had another problem. We were offshore and if choosing to head inshore, we had to deal with passing through intolerable, fast-moving whitewater waves. We lasted another 2 or 3 kilometers in the water, inching our way toward shore, finally tucking into some protected rocks.
Then, my body exploded.
Sherrin made a call for tide information, we fought on for another 2 hours. The kayak was drained onshore. Didn't matter again because exiting our rest area, and heading straight to the whitewater and out into manageable conditions, it filled again.
We swam and kayaked with the Coast Guard vessel in the distance watching us maneuver, not in a straight line, but zigzagging around the outermost whitewater heading into shore. And I'm not sure about that helicopter flying over twice within 20 minutes. It looked military or possibly there are now helicopter tours of Seongsan? A small harbor was spotted. Our stopping point. Slowly inching toward our day's rest the last dilemma occurred.
There were strong whitewater waves protecting the entrance into the harbor. I had to take water from over the side of the kayak or the back. I decided to take it in the back. I got in close, angled the kayak perpendicular and the final wave of the day hit from the backside up to the middle to my life jacket, up and over the kayak, for one last message: The sea will always be stronger than man or woman.
One hour later, the waters were calm, the tide going in the opposite direction of our desires.