DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mike Miller is training to swim the English Channel along with his daughter, Mackenzie, who is now on the mainland, to raise money for two of their favorite charities, the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund and Xterra Foundation. Here, he demonstrates his freestyle stroke off Kailua Beach, where he normally trains.
Father, daughter hope to swim into history
Competitive swimmer Mackenzie Miller has endured perhaps the toughest training regimen of her life. And what lies ahead for the Aulea Swim Club member is an even greater feat.
"They tell me I am crazy," Miller said of her friends.
To raise money for two Hawaii-based organizations, the 17-year-old plans to swim across the English Channel with her father, Mike Miller, 54.
Escorted by two motorboats, the swimming duo will make the estimated 11- to 14-hour frigid-water swim from England to France sometime in the last week of August, weather permitting.
"Physically, I believe we're ready," said Mike Miller, who took time off of his job at UBS Financial Services for the challenge. "We're going to work on getting mentally ready 'cause we're going to Dover (England) early to get used to the water."
Their training has been anything but easy. Especially for Mackenzie Miller, who had to do three weeks' worth of homework during the summer and get special permission to miss school.
She recalled begrudgingly sitting with her father in an inflatable pool of ice-cold water in their back yard to get acclimated to the cold.
The La Jardin Academy senior nearly gave up when the two traveled to California for a qualifying swim from Alcatraz to the Aquatic Park near Fishermen's Wharf in San Francisco. "The first couple of times we got in the water, my arms felt like they were on fire it was so cold." Miller of being in 54-degree waters.
To qualify for the English Channel crossing, father and daughter had to swim a minimum of six hours in 60-degree water or less. That was harder for Miller than her father.
"It's definitely more of challenge for her, although she is every bit a strong swimmer as I am," he said.
Mike Miller has competed in long-distance swims for years. In 1979 he swam the 26-mile Kaiwi Channel between Oahu and Molokai. Years later he swam the Au Au Channel between Maui and Lanai. Recently he completed the Catalina Channel off Southern California.
Not only is the swim a personal challenge, but it is a chance to give back to their community. Donations collected will benefit the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund and the Xterra Foundation.
"We were thrilled that they (the Millers) were interested in doing something so spectacular and unique to benefit our organization," said Laurie Moore of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund.
Built more than 40 years ago, the USS Arizona Memorial is slowly sinking due to water intrusion. Repairs would cost about $52 million. Money is also being gathered for Smile Train, an organization that primarily helps children with cleft lips and palates. The organization is a partner with the Xterra Foundation.
A demanding training schedule is nothing in comparison with challenges confronting kids supported by the Xterra Foundation, Mike Miller said in a release.
Hypothermia is always a danger for English Channel crossings; for a crossing to be officially recognized, no wet suits are allowed, as braving the cold is considered part of the challenge. Just "swimsuits, goggles, swim caps and earplugs and lots of lanolin," said Miller.
Despite the many risks, Mackenzie Miller said her greatest fear is not finishing the swim and possibly disappointing her dad.
Whether she finishes or not, she said training with her dad has brought them closer together.
"It's pretty cool. I mean it's like, I don't have to think that I am the only person doing this, I have my dad with me," she said.
To make a contribution, visit www.mikenmacswim.org.