Berkeley teen becomes youngest person ever to swim Hawaii Kaiwi channel

A Bay Area teen has created history by being the youngest person to ever swim the Kaiwi Channel in Hawaii.

Maya Merhige of Berkeley began the 28 miles-long journey on the night of Jan. 18 at Moloka'i island and finished 27 hours and 33 minutes later on Oahu the following night, all in dedication to pediatric cancer.

The 15-year-old shared that swimming between the two Hawaiian islands to raise funds for pediatric cancer research was something personal for her-stemming both from her love of swimming and also in honor of a friend she lost in December 2022. 

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"I continued to motivate myself by remembering why I was doing it… in dedication and memory of a friend who passed away last month…pushed me and go forward," said Merhige.

The competitive swimmer shared that doing the task was connecting and combining things she loves with something "everyone has to deal with." Merhige said swimming the channel was also something she wanted to do since she was 9, and that her late friend Sam "would've loved it."

O. Gloria Okorie is a digital reporter for KTVU. Email O. Gloria at or call her at 510-874-0175. Follow her on Twitter @ogloriaokorie.