“Only 9 miles to go, Bro!” The South Africans Hit Maui And Molokai
Boss Man’s note: Here’s Peter Petersen’s recap of last weekend’s Molokai downwind races, including the big Maui to Molokai on Saturday plus the Komolo to Molokai Hotel race on Sunday. We usually hear updates from Peter about the SUP racing scene in South Africa (another downwind hotspot) but this month Team SA has setup camp on Maui, where they’re all prepping for the big one at the end of the month: Molokai 2 Oahu.
First weekend of downwind racing in Hawaii consisted of the small matter of a 27mile (43km) paddle across the Pailolo channel from Maui to Molokai on the Saturday, and a 8.5mile (14km) Kamolo Harbour to Molokai Hotel paddle on the Sunday. This all formed part of the modestly named World Cup of SUP which has taken the place of the Triple Crown.
Team Saffa got a lift with Kelly’s shuttle to the start at Honolua Bay of surfing fame. This time of year it’s flat as a pancake but incredibly beautiful. You park high up on the road and carry your boards through a lush jungle forest with monkey ropes fit for Tarzan (and us…. 🙂 The weather was perfect with 20knot+ winds blowing out the back.
At the bottom all the big guns were getting ready, Connor Baxter, tall and lanky, cut an imposing figure next to Travis Grant who is much shorter and stockier. Some older surfing legends such as Buzzy Kerbox and windsurfing mad-man Robert Teritehau also lined up. Australians were strongly represented with Travis, Paul Jackson, Terene Black, Dave Kissa and a whole lot more. In the Prone division World Champs Brad Gaul and Jordan Mercer, both from Australia, were looking sharp. All in there were about 50 entries.
To say we were a little nervous would be an understatement, “Its just a paddle” I kept reminding myself and we all quietly agreed that getting to the other side was the main mission – racing second.
The start was fast paced from the lead bunch and even though we paddled hard we were right at the back before we’d even exited the bay. Man, if they are going to paddle like this the whole way they are brave, I thought, but yip, that’s pretty much what they did. First half hour the wind was on the right shoulder and you couldn’t buy a run for love or money. Then the first little bumps started appearing and you could get some relief. Only problem was that every run would send you heading for Lanai which from our waypoint and viewpoint would entail a massive upwind paddle towards the end.
Francois Frick and everyone we’d asked had told us to head for a point between Lanai and Molokai. With the wind being NE it just seemed counter intuitive so most of the field was pinching to the right for the corner of Molokai. Pietro almost called over the boat to bail and I must say I was cursing a bit as well. To travel all this way to paddle sideways for an hour and half just seemed like a retarded mission. Rather go do 3x Malikos or 2x Milnerton-Melkbos runs FFS.
Brigette was the only one who really heeded the instruction and immediately started drifting off South with the runners whereas Kimon was pinching hard and probably took the most Northerly line, with Pietro on a similar line, and me somewhere in between.
Everything slowly, but surely, started getting better, as swell and wind-direction finally started lining up and we started getting some proper runners. This was two hours into the race and the front bunch was long gone and we were probably joined by only a handful of paddlers making up the rear. I now set my sight on a couple of paddlers ahead of me and started chasing them down. We’d been told about a big red buoy off Kamolo Harbour which would indicate 9-10miles to go and for a long time I thought I was heading for it until I realized it kept moving as it was a paddler in a red t-shirt….
When I finally saw it it was way South of my line and I knew we had gone up way too far – this was to some extent a relief because now I could stop pinching and just send it with the runs for the first time. What a difference. I started dropping the guys around me and belted for the buoy. Now this was more like it, wind had probably picked up to 25knots and there were some decent swells chasing us down. I was still debating internally how hard to go – I knew I had at least another 1.5-2hours of paddling to go and legs and upper back were beginning to feel it.
As I got to the buoy Mr. Johnny Mac on the safety boat shouted: “Only 9 miles to go, Bro!” – music to my ears, this was the famous downwind highway, no more pinching just belt and try not overshoot the harbour wall. This was the best section of the entire race. Big runners and my moving red buoy dude had begun to appear a little closer, I started to wonder if I could catch him. Again you are debating internally; go flat out or conserve???? I had been paddling for 3 hours and I thought, I can make my target time of 4 hours – just stay with the runs. The biggest problem at this stage is that you are constantly worried about where you are supposed to be heading, the island kind of bends around, making you think if you get in too deep you won’t make it back to the island in time for the finish. Not knowing the route and the landmarks was the biggest frustration because you were constantly holding back thinking you are going to drift out too deep if you just follow the runs. But as it were the wind and runs follow every bend and you should just let yourself flow with it….
Anyway Mr Red Buoy Dude was definitely getting closer but still no sign of that damn harbour wall and blue roof. Saw a blue roof, but that was someone’s house – don’t go in there….
Half an hour passed and I finally spotted the harbour wall – looked at my watch, man, 4hours is beginning to look like a tough target. I was on runs most the time but I just didn’t seem to be making headway. Only positive was I finally caught up to Red Bouy Dude and left him in the dust – he must be hurting, I thought, because my legs were like jelly and my back was burning and at least I was moving while he was standing still…
4hour mark came and went and that wall still seemed miles away….pretty much because it still was…As we got closer it also got shallower which slowed us down even further. I was catching a dude on a black 17′ board a couple of hundred meters ahead but he was just too far ahead to be caught . When we finally rounded the last red buoy in front of harbour we were literally faced with 250m 25knot headwind just to add insult to injury. Dig deep, shoulders burning and get to that wall and out of the wind – finally, finish line – mission accomplished. 4hr32 – crap time but we took a crap line and could never really let ourselves paddle downwind because we felt it would send us out mid-Pacific. The supposed out-going tide apparently didn’t help either – but all these issues didn’t seem to affect Connor who came in 3.09 only 14 minutes slower than last year with much less wind this year. The local guys were rating it 4/10 as opposed to last years 10/10……
Pietro came in 4.43 with Kimon just after that in 4.45. Brigette did 5.05 having taken a much better line than the boys. We were all feeling it, cramping feet and burning muscles, but happy smiles all round.
Next days race was “only” 14km and started in line with the red buoy outside Kamolo harbour and went to Molokai Hotel a mile or two before the harbour wall. Having done the stretch the day before was a huge relief as we now had an idea of the lines and could actually focus on paddling – what a difference! I managed to limit my losses to winner Dave Kissane on his 17′ to 1min/km (which is still a massive spanking) but it is what I’d kind of calculated should be feasible before we even left for Maui. So I was happy with that and Kimon was only a minute or two behind me so he was also styling. Pietro sat it out and Brigette also posted a good time of which gave her 2nd in class and 3rd overall. Conditions were very similar to a Milnerton run with 15-20knots on it – a little soft but plenty little runners and at least straight downwind this time.
All in all a humbling experience, the top guys here are beyond quick and we better put on our best game-suit for this Sundays Maliko race!
Then its the big M2O the weekend after that – they all say that race is similar to Maui – Molokais worst portions – the whole way…Pietro says he might throw in the towel and I’m also debating the wisdom of the exercise. Especially when we have the Maliko run on our doorstep which is downwinding on steroids…
>>> Kamolo to Molokao Hotel Race Results:
1st: Dave Kissane SUP open Mens 1:13:54
2nd: Kaeo Abby SUP open Mens 1:14:50
3rd: Tomo Murabayashi SUP open Mens 1:15:38
4th: Marcus Tardrew SUP open Mens 1:16:41
5th: Armie Armstrong SUP open Mens 1:17:42
6th: Jimmy Fitt SUP open Mens 1:19:02
7th: Andre Domin SUP open Mens 1:20:50
8th: Ed Wheeler SUP open Mens 1:23:02
1st: Jeff Chang Men 50+ 1:21:40
1st: Jennifer Lee Womens Unlimited 1:30:20
2nd: Sharon Look Womens Unlimited 1:36:33
3rd: Rosiland Selbach Womens Unlimited 1:39:50
4th: Peggy King Womens Unlimited 1:51:58
1st: Peggy King Womens 50 1:51:58
1st: Zane Kekoa Schweitzer SUP 14 Mens 1:19:43
2nd: Matt Becker SUP 14 Mens 1:25:57
3rd: Peter Peterson SUP 14 Mens 1:28:21
4th: Kimon Dos Santos SUP 14 Mens 1:29:08
5th: Jeff Erickson SUP 14 Mens 1:29:58
6th: Pietro Muscas SUP 14 Mens 24:00:00
1st: Tabitha Pupuhi SUP 12’6 Womens 1:48:15
2nd: Boki Chung SUP 12’6 Womens 1:50:57
1st: Todd Yamashita SUP 12’6 Mens 1:35:00
1st: Alex Mawae SUP juniors 16 and under boys 1:44:42