‘Like a hot iron.’ B.C. man’s ultra-marathon Hawaiian swim is scuttled by jellyfish

'Like a hot iron.' B.C. man's ultra-marathon Hawaiian swim is scuttled by jellyfish
Kelowna ultra-endurance athlete Nick Pelletier shows off his injuries left by the jellyfish in this selfie image.

Ultra-endurance athlete Nick Pelletier knew the Hawaiian channel he planned to swim had plenty of sharks, but he should have been worried about the jellyfish.

Pelletier, who’s from Kelowna, B.C., flew to Hawaii last week for an attempt to swim across the Molokai Channel, a 41-kilometre stretch between the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai and Oahu.

The channel is known for treacherous currents and abundant marine life, including whales and more than 40 types of sharks.

He didn’t encounter any sharks.

Instead, jellyfish stings forced him to quit his challenge on Tuesday.

“It got me in the face here and then all over my arms, and my chest and everything,” said Pelletier during a Zoom interview, who rolled up his T-shirt to show multiple red streaks along his torso and arms left by the jellyfish.

“I felt like I had a hot iron on me getting branded,” Pelletier recalled of the stings, which also left him with swollen eyes.

Pelletier, 26, had been in the channel more than 13 hours, and was about half way through his swim when the jellyfish struck and his crew decided he needed to come out of the water.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said.

He had also been fighting against rough currents, and his lungs were filling with saltwater, which made him feel sick.

The current switched at one point and he wasn’t moving, despite giving it the same effort as before.

“At that moment, you just kind of think about all the time you spent in training that people don’t see.

“You get all the hours, and hours and hours in the pool alone and mentally preparing in the gym, strengthening your shoulders, doing your running, everything like that …. So, all this stuff kind of flashes before your eyes when you’re getting pulled.”

SEE ALSO: Cinematographer documents stunning Vancouver Island jellyfish bloom: ‘It feels like you’re on another planet’

Pelletier made the headlines last summer by completing a 106-kilometre, lengthwise swim of Okanagan Lake from Vernon, B.C. to Penticton within 71 hours.

He said he use to race in triathlons before doing nature challenges and enjoys the feeling of pushing against his own limits.

“On its best days, you can’t beat Mother Nature, but on certain days, it will lead to challenges,” said Pelletier, adding that it’s a cool experience to go up against a powerful force.

“All these things that I’ve done in my past when I finished them, or put all the time and effort into visualizing a goal, putting in the preparation, the training, and then executing it and finally coming together, those rare moments in life that don’t come around very often, but they’re very much earned and not given.”

Pelletier said he would like to attempt another swim of the channel, but didn’t say when. He plans to “lay low” in Hawaii for the rest of the week, he said.

These types of challenges make him feel thankful and proud of his crew who has been looking after him, Pelletier said, not to mention giving him a ton of respect for the ocean and marine life.

“It’s always a learning experience,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade the things I’ve learned for anything.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 22. 2024. 

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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