Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Puna’s Archie Hapai an Ironman Original

Archie Hapai

       “All my successes have been built on my failures,” Benjamin Disraeli said.

For Puna’s Archie Hapai learning from a failure brought him unique gratification and the ability to say that he is one of the few and an original.

In January 1978 Hapai attempted to swim the Molokai Channel from Ilio Point on Molokai to Sandy Beach on Oahu.

“I belonged to the Humuhumunukumukuapuaa Swim Club and they asked me to give the 26 mile distance swim a try,” Hapai said.

Hapai estimated that, with weather permitting, the challenging swim would take him about 13 hours.

“I had been training from September 1977 till January to teach my body to go the entire 26 miles,” Hapai said.

After 12 hours in the water Hapai caught sight of Sandy Beach and was looking at completing something that few before him had ever accomplished.

“The current started pushing me back in the final hour and I lost sight of Sandy’s,” Hapai said.  “I wasn’t able to get ashore and became a DNF (did not finish).  It was heartbreaking.”

A month later Hapai was holding his chin high as he attempted what no one before him had ever done.

“I swam the 2.4 mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim from San Souci Beach to Duke Kahanamoku Beach, and then rode my bike 112 miles in the Oahu Century Ride from Duke Kahanamoku Beach around parts of Oahu to Aloha Tower,” Hapai explained.  “This was followed by a 26 mile Honolulu Marathon run from Aloha Tower to Kapiolani Park.”

Hapai did all of the three distances in one day along with 11 other people to complete the first Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon in 1978, making him an ‘original’.

“I don’t remember all of the reasons I did the Iron Man,” Hapai said.  “But not finishing the Molokai to Oahu swim along with the faith of my fellow club swimmers probably had something to do with it.”

Back in February ’78 there were no crowds cheering the original 12 on and no money bet between the racers as the entire event was made through each person’s own inner strength and determination.

“The challenge was to finish the three legs and determine who were the best athletes overall: swimmers, bikers or runners,” Hapai said. 

On that day in Feb. ’78 there were 15 men that started the race, no women, and three had to drop out because they ran out of time and needed to get to work.

“We had to pace ourselves as I knew it was going to be a very long day,” Hapai said.

What started as a beautiful sunny day during the swim turned into a heavy downpour when the bikers reached Haleiwa.

“I remember riding through the Haleiwa Sea Spree, a carnival/fair at about midday and having to dodge the potholes in the road,” Hapai said.

Hapai also recalled running on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki with tourist on the sidewalks he needed to be on the street.

“Running on the road we had to endure cars honking at us and yelling things like ‘get off the street you idiot’,” Hapai said.

Through Hapai’s self determination and inner strength he was able to complete the entire race and is now referred to as one of the original Iron Men.

Today, at age 64, Hapai remains healthy and active through regular physical exercise and his love for the water.

“I swim 240 minutes, will jog 90 minutes, do pushups, chin ups, abdominal core exercises for 30 minutes, each and every week,” Hapai said.

Hapai is a retired Army Veteran who spent 25 years in the military and is a decorated Vietnam Veteran awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Commendation Medal and the National Defense Medal.

Because of his military service and his love for his country Hapai is helping to put on a 5K  run/walk called A Salute to Our Veterans at Hilo Bay on Saturday, June 18.

“We’re helping the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3830 to try to raise funds to expand facilities and programs to meet the rapidly growing needs of Puna’s veteran population,” Hapai said.

Hapai explained that a 2010 census identified 2,300 displaced veterans on the Big Island with 1,300 of them residing in the Puna District.

“Basic medical, hygienic and social services to improve their quality of life are desperately needed,” Hapai said.  “The expansion of our VFW Post will enable our dedicated volunteers to help these veterans who have done so much to help others.”

Hapai would like to encourage the public to attend this run/walk event as his wife, Marlene is the Event Coordinator.

For more information email Marlene at mhapai@aol.com or call 966-9894.

For registration, sponsorship and convention forms go to the Post 3830 website at www.vfwpost3830.com and click on ‘Convention and Run 2011’.

“Our website has been recognized nationally as the VFW’s second Most Outstanding Website,” Hapai said.  “The services we provide range from addressing everyday veteran transportation, medical, food and housing needs to coordinating and contributing to maintenance, care and educational programs for veterans, youth, elderly, Special Olympians and cancer patients.”

And someday should you happen to see a fortunate veteran running along the roadside remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.

June 6, 2011 - Posted by | Profiles, Swimming in Hawaii | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Wow, what an interesting person and great role model for all of us.

    Comment by Fleet Feet | June 6, 2011 | Reply

  2. Sounds like a fun event for a great cause. Nice that there are peolpe out here that are trying to improve the lives of our veterens. Count me in.

    Comment by J.N. | June 6, 2011 | Reply


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