Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard Championships

Kate Andersen

Typically, I would not use this blog to write a race recap, but the Molokai2Oahu (M2O) Paddleboard Race, which happened July 27, is the grand daddy of paddle endurance events. What is so special about the M2O Paddle Race? To start, it’s a point-to-point channel crossing between the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai and Oahu; distance is 32 miles. The race crosses from Molokai to Oahu via the Ka’iwi (kah-EE-vee) Channel. More commonly known as the Molokai Channel or The Channel of Bones, it also has the reputation as one the worlds most treacherous channels. M2O can be raced on either a standup paddleboard or a prone paddleboard (lay down). Either way there’s no easy way to cross the channel; it’s a whole lot of paddling in extremely challenging conditions. Needless to say this is not a beginner, intermediate or even finely tuned expert race, this paddle race take months and months of preparation and training. In fact, each entrant is highly scrutinized by the organizers to make sure each competitor has enough experience to race.

Why did I choose to write about this race? It’s not in Marin and most folks reading this won’t ever do the race, right? It just so happens we did have some Marin paddle athletes compete in the M2O this year. All of them finished and at least one of them got on the podium. In my humble opinion finishing this race is the prize; it’s a mental challenge just as much as it is a physical challenge. In talking with a couple of the Marin paddle athletes that raced, the event itself takes lots of logistical planning from getting boards to Molokai (the start), to arranging for an escort boat (which is a requirement) to planning your nutritional and liquid intake for race day.

How long does it take to paddle 32 miles? Winning times this year were a hair over 4 hours (Connor Baxter on a standup paddleboard). Most racers finished the race between 5-7 hours. That’s 5-7 hours on your feet on a standup paddleboard or lying down on a prone board, on open ocean swells, in the sun and wind. Conditions vary year to year, ideally the racers want lots of wind so they can ride the wind and swell downwind towards Oahu. However Mother Nature does not always cooperate, winds can be light, tides and currents can inhibit your progress making the crossing long and arduous.

This year Bluerush Boardsports in Sausalito put together a three-person relay team made up of John Walsh, Igor Krtolica and Steve Pugh. They made the crossing in an impressive time of 5 hours and 22 minutes. From Mill Valley, Fred Andersen raced in the solo class and finished in 6 hours and 49 minutes. This was Fred’s first attempt at the M2O. Rounding out the Marin paddle athletes was Joel Comer. Joel raced solo and finished in 6 hours and 4 minutes, giving him second place in his age category. Jimmy Spithill raced solo and finished with a speedy time of 5 hours and 1 minute. All of these paddle athletes deserve a round of applause, as finishing this race is an incredible accomplishment.

To see complete results and learn more about the Molokai2Oahu Paddle Race, check out their website.

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