In an earlier post, I wrote that WOWSA’s investigation likely took a week or two. Had WOWSA exonerated Munatones, they’d have said so.
Instead, the organization appears to have made a deal with Steven: If you leave quietly, we won’t publish our findings.
WOWSA couldn’t continue functioning with a co-owner they knew had falsified thousands of Openwaterpedia pages to benefit a swimmer he revered.
So, on May 18, WOWSA’s three owners — Steven Munatones, Antonio Argüelles, and Quinn Fitzgerald — dissolved the company by filing a Certificate of Termination with the California Secretary of State.
They also signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement; we won’t see a report any time soon.
Absent WOWSA’s findings, here are more examples of Steven using Openwaterpedia to fabricate documentation, including multiple records for a body of water no one has ever crossed.
First, though, let’s turn to a more familiar channel:
The Tsugaru Triple
Steven loves creating heroes. What better way to do that than to bestow an athlete with world records? And since Steven believes “there are an infinite number of world records that can be achieved” in open water swimming, he can conjure as many as he likes, even if no one — including the purported record-holder — knows they exist.*
No one has ever completed a multiple crossing of the Tsugaru Channel. But that didn’t stop Steven from ascribing a triple to Japanese marathon swimmer Miyuki Fujita:
Fujita has completed three Tsugaru crossings, but she never claimed she completed them one after the other. Presumably, she knows that the rules of the sport allow for no more than 10 minutes at turnarounds.
Steven knows it, too; he included it in his rules for swimming the Tsugaru Channel:
In the case of a two-way crossing, the swimmer can immediately turn around after finishing the first leg or they can rest for up to 10 minutes onshore as they wish.
Granted, he didn’t publish that until 2019. But his turnaround regulation follows the 10-minute standard in place since the 1960s.
However, in a 2010 post to the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association website, Steven writes that the swimmer must “return to the water directly.” He may have felt uncomfortable committing to the accepted turnaround time because, in a post a few days earlier, he claimed to have completed a Tsugaru two-way with a turnaround substantially longer than 10 minutes (see below).
For her part, Fujita posts detailed swim notes, but all in Japanese. By all accounts, she doesn’t speak English, making it unlikely she knows Steven created false records in her name.**
Thanks to a bit of luck and a lot of Google Translate, I found a post in which she published dates and times for her three 2006 crossings:
- August 31 in 11:43
- September 2 in 15:28
- September 4 in 10:13
Add them up, and you get 37:24, the time Steven provides for her triple.
Three Tsugaru crossings in five days is an incredible feat that requires no embellishment. But Steven couldn’t help himself. He went on to use the fake triple as Fujita’s entry into the 24-hour club, a list of athletes who have completed swims lasting 24 hours or longer.
At some point, though, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame director Ned Denison learned the truth about the triple. So, he removed it from Fujita’s Openwaterpedia entry and replaced it with a 26-hour six-way between Awashima (Awa Island) and Ose.
But that didn’t happen either. Fujita says in her blog that she completed three on June 21, 2010, then attempted three more the next day but stopped partway through the final leg.
For the complete story, see Fujita’s posts:
Make Steven’s A Double
He also awarded a double to Fujita, but he made it the second and third legs— Hokkaido-Honshu-Hokkaido — of her faux triple. That way, no one would confuse it with his sham Honshu-Hokkaido-Honshu two-way.
Finally, Steven falsely claims to have completed the first and only Catalina Channel free solo, a crossing without the aid of a guide boat and crew. He wrote about it in a December 2022 post he called “Free Solo (confidential).” However, after he realized it wasn’t (confidential, that is), he blanked the page.
About a month later, he changed all the names, including his own, and reposted “Free Solo (confidential)” as “For Skolnick.” Presumably, this alludes to journalist Adam Skolnick. His article about the SCAR swim, “An Unexpected Open Water Challenge: 40 Miles Across Arizona,” appeared in the New York Times in May. Skolnick incorporated sketches of several participants, including Munatones.
Update: In a recent email, Munatones told me: “For the record, I never swam Catalina, although I have been an observer, pace swimmer, and escort crew member for other swimmers several times. I erased all fabricated information from Openwaterpedia.”
More Records For Miyuki: Crossing Suruga Bay
No one has ever swum across Japan’s Suruga Bay, but that didn’t stop Steven from handing Fujita six Suruga Bay world records:
Steven gushes about some of those swims in a 2010 WOWSA post, “Miyuki Fujita Breaks Her Own World Record” (archived). “Under towering Mount Fuji,” he writes, “Miyuki Fujita broke her own world record for a three-way crossing of Suruga Bay.” He says Fujita’s new mark “was entered into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame online archives.”
In the Openwaterpedia entries, he gives Fujita’s start- and endpoints as Awa Island and Ose, or vice versa. That’s the same course Denison gives for her fake six-way.
Steven doesn’t provide an image showing those locations. From the map below, you can see why. Claiming Fujita crossed Suruga Bay by swimming from Awa Island to Ose like saying she crossed the English Channel by swimming from Folkestone to Dover. Or, like saying she crossed the Catalina Channel by swimming from Avalon to the Isthmus/Two Harbors. That’s a long swim, but it’s not a channel crossing.
Fujita did cross the entire English Channel. In fact, she crossed it eight times, six more than any other Japanese swimmer. In other words, Miyuki Fujita was already a hero. She didn’t need help from Steven.
The Company He Keeps: Dr. Joe Mercola
Here’s another reason WOWSA might have wanted to part ways with Munatones: He’d been associating with Dr. Joseph Mercola, one of the world’s most notorious spreaders of health-related disinformation. You can read about Mercola in The Encyclopedia of American Loons, Quackwatch, and The New York Times. You’ll also find him atop the Center For Countering Digital Hate’s Disinformation Dozen.
Steven, in his role as CEO and co-founder of KAATSU Global Inc., promoted his organization’s blood-flow restriction training and equipment in at least three interviews he gave with Mercola:
Steven might have gotten away with professing ignorance about Mercola after one interview but not after a second or third.
~ ~ ~
For Diana and Steven, truth isn’t a priority; it’s an inconvenience. Their lies taint everything they do.
Munatones has served for years as Nyad’s consultant about all things marathon swimming. To elevate her status among those unwilling to acknowledge Steven’s duplicity, Diana parasitizes his reputation as a marathon swimming authority:
- Nyad mentions Munatones over 20 times in her memoir Find a Way.
- Steven was the sole observer during her 2012 Cuba–Florida attempt. During that attempt, he overlooked at least one disqualifying transgression and did his best to hide or minimize other irregularities (e.g., getting out on the boat during the crossing).
- Nyad wanted Steven as her sole observer in 2013, too. When he proved unavailable, he instructed and later vouched for the two replacement observers. They knew little about the sport and had no experience observing.
- Steven has repeatedly tampered with online documents to benefit Nyad, and then lied about it.
- As the open water swimming consultant for Guinness World Records (GWR), Munatones recommended that the organization award Nyad a record for her Cuba–Florida swim. GWR has since rescinded that record (current | archived).
What’s more, Munatones is the only marathon swimmer the Nyad filmmakers consulted. Yet he’s a documented liar and one of only a handful of experienced marathon swimmers who believe in Nyad’s legitimacy. He would do anything within reason — and many things outside it — to help Nyad look like a hero. Vandalizing thousands of Openwaterpedia pages to do that makes complete sense.