Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

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Tsugaru Channel in Japan between Honshu and Hokkaido
Darren Miller course across the Tsugaru Channel starting in Kodomari on Honshu and finishing near Shirakami Misaki on Hokkaido
The ocean currents surrounding the Japanese archipelago including the 1. Kuroshio Current, 2. Kuroshio extension, 3. Kuroshio counter-current, 4. Tsushima Current, 5. Tsugaru Current, 6. Sōya Current, 7. Oyashio Current, 8. Liman Current
noun - Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association is an open water swimming governing body established in 2008 by Steven Munatones and Yuko Matsuzaki to promote, regulate and support channel swimmers crossing the Tsugaru Channel (Tsugaru Strait) between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido in Japan and flowing between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. The Association works locally with Ocean Navi and the team led by Masayuki Moriya and is a member of the World Open Water Swimming Association.

Contents

Successes

The Association recognizes the successful swims of the following swimmers:

Tsugaru Channel

The Tsugaru Channel is the least known of the 7 channels that make up the Oceans Seven. The channel is in a land where Japanese is the only local language spoken - presenting additional challenges for non-Japanese marathon swimmers.

The Japanese escort boat pilots, especially lead pilot Captain Mizushima, are experienced fishermen in the area, many of whom have spent their entire lives fishing among the well-stocked area of myriad marine life.

Tsugaru Current

The Tsugaru Current flows through the Tsugaru Channel between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, north of Honshu and south of Hokkaido in Japan.

Challenges

The channel presents many of the same challenges as the other more well-known waterways of the Oceans Seven: strong currents, tidal flows, unpredictable eddies, unswimmable waters when the winds come up, jellyfish, squid, large ocean swells, and large oil tankers and cargo ships running the channel. Large swells, extremely turbulent water surface conditions, unpredictable eddies and abundant marine life from sharks to sea snakes exist, although jellyfish and squid are usually what swimmers see and encounter.

Window of Opportunity

The recommended time to attempt crossings is July and August, although some have attempted in May and June when the water is still closer to 10°C (50°F) than 15°C (59°F), but in July and August, the water temperature increases well above 16°C (61°F) up to near 30°C in September.

Courses

The distance between the two closest points is Tappi Misaki (竜飛崎) on the Honshu (south) side of the channel and Shirakami Misaki (白神岬) on the Hokkaido (north) side in 19.5 km (12 miles). Many of the successful solo and relay crossings follow the course pioneered by David Yudovin in on 7 July 1990. Yudovin started on the far western side of the channel on a small cape called Kodomari Benten Cape (小泊権現崎) on Honshu and allowed the west-to-east running Tsugaru Current to push him towards Shirakami Misaki on the Hokkaido. His pioneering swim took him 13 hours 10 minutes in July 1990.

An alternative course is to swim directly between Tappi Misaki on Honshu to Shirakami Misaki along the Shirakami Peninsula on Hokkaido. This course is a bit more high-risk in that the currents around Tappi Misaki run fast, but if the swimmer is fast enough, the distance is shorter. This course was taken by Steven Munatones on 29 July 1990 in 6 hours 11 minutes.

The shortest course in the reverse direction (north-to-south) is from Shirakami Misaki to Tappi Misaki that was pioneered by Munatones on 30 July 1990 in 6 hours 39 minutes.

Another course is between Shirakami Misaki on Hokkaido and Shimokita Peninsula (下北半島) on the eastern side of Honshu. This course was pioneered by Miyuki Fujita in 2006 and swum by Penny Palfrey in 14 hours 26 minutes in 2011 and is recommended by the Tsugaru Strait Swimming Association.

Videos


Video of Brad McVetta crossing the Tsugaru Channel from Honshu to Hokkaido, courtesy of Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi and the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association

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