This year was another example of just how brutal the kaiw’I channel can be, and a sharp reminder that to stand on the podium at Molokai2Oahu paddleboard race takes something truly special.
this years 22nd edition of the Molokai2Oahu paddleboard race, was set to be my 7th crossing of the notorious channel. A race that I’ve competed in more times than any other event, however have relatively struggled with results, managing just one overall podium. (3rdSUP,2015).
My preparation for this year’s race was full of twists and turns. While a heavy racing schedules leading up to the event provided me with confidence. It also created the challenge of having just 4 weeks to adjust from 1hr long races, to a format that could take up to 5hr to complete.
A ‘cram’ style of programing certainly isn’t my favoured approach. However, due to time constants, my preparation training block was spilt with two weeks at home in Australia. And the last two weeks on the North Shore of Hawaii, acclimatising to the down winding conditions.
One of the trickiest skills to master leading into the Molokai 2 Oahu paddleboard race, is the art of paddling an ‘Unlimited’ class board. A board generally 4ft longer and a few kg’s heavier than our usual race boards. Throw in a foot tiller-controlled rudder system for steering and it’s like learning to paddle all over again.
After not touching these styles of boards for up to 3 months, the plan was to spend the last two weeks of before the event having a crash course remembering how drive the oversized boards down large offshore swells that normally makes up most of the M2O race. as per usual with this race, not everything goes to plan.
With my board Stuck in Customs for 3 weeks longer than expected, then following by some steering system malfunctions, time to familiarise myself before this year’s race was defiantly limited. After finally having my board released I was able to snag a few runs on the board, before breaking my boards tiller arm a few days out from the event. Luckily DEEP were able to put together a spare and send it just in time to attach the day before the race.
After registration on the Thursday prior to the Sunday race day, I’ve always liked going to the island of Molokai a few days ahead of the race. Boarding the one-way flight over is always a big relief. All the hectic preparations are done, equipment is ready, and training complete. All that’s left is to execute on race day. As a final culmination of my equipment issues, my board was damaged on the boat transport over. Luckily I was able to do a quick repair with some epoxy resin.
We woke the morning of the race to clear skies, 13-18knot trade winds, and rumours of a strong North current, that was going to push against us for most of the race. There is always a buzz of nervous energy on the beach before this race, paddlers and support crews running round getting everything ready for one of the biggest days on the water. But once you reach the start line on the far side of the bay, the realisation kicks in of what lays ahead.
The start of this years race felt good for me, other than two or so technical mistakes, which let the front runners skip just in front, I felt strong and in a good space. My goal this year was to be more conservative the first half of the race, and come home strong. After the first hour, I began to lift my intensity. Milking a bit more out of each run, I was positioned well and the race was going to plan.
Unfortunately, a small twist as I positioned myself at the back of the board on a runner, led to a sharp pain through my shoulder and up my arm. In the adrenalin of the race, I pushed that pain to the back of my mind. However, at around the 1.5 hour mark I began to notice my left shoulder felt a little tight, not too much to worry about, as I attempted to loosen it while riding down each run.
The 2 hour mark came, as I attempted to lift my intensity once again. Shortly after my I was met with more sharp neural pains, protruding from shoulder down my arm. This started to limit my motor control of my hand, making it almost impossible to paddle on one side. It was pretty obvious at this point, any damage I had done, was getting progressively worse.
After some consultations with Rob, on my escort boat, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, to retire from the race. An experience I never thought I wouldn’t encounter, siting mid channel on my escort boat, watching everyone else paddle by.
On later examination and consultations deciding to withdraw, possibly saved my season. My rehab shouldn’t be to strenuous as I look forward to paddling at my best, in a few weeks time, at the Colombia Gorge paddle challenge.
Having setbacks like this, really makes you appreciate the challenge the Molokai2Oahu race presents. And how much it takes for somebody to overcome the enormity of this race to stand atop of the podium. One thing is for sure, we will be back, hungrier than ever to push the limits of what’s possible across the Kawa’I channel.
A Molokai2Oahu campaign is truly a team effort. And I feel grateful for the crew I have around me that allows me to stand on the start line 100% prepared.
From what was possibly my lowest moment in the Molokai2Oahu paddle board race. I feel confident to come back stronger and more prepared than ever to chase the win in this iconic race.