Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maui to Molokai SUP race 2012, race recap by Bill Boyum and Robert Stehlik

Before the start of the Maui to Molokai race at Honolula Bay

The Maui to Molokai race was my favorite race I have competed in to date.
Most of the content in this post has already been posted on the standup zone in this thread:

Here is the GPS data of the race:

Bill Boyum from Maui did a great writeup along with excellent videos, which I will re-post here, videos are at the bottom of this page.

Race Recap written by Bill Boyum:

As Blueplanet reported, he came over friday morning, I picked him up and we did a fairly smokin' Maliko run to the oil tanks.  BluePlanet (Robert) was going to be racing on Sat so he just wanted a cruise run which was perfect since he was going with me and Victor.  Robert's a great guy and very good DW paddler.  He sandbagged considerably on his very first Maliko run to allow me stay with him and certainly seemed ready for the next day.

  TS Daniel had just cleared south of the BI Friday night and pressure gradients had tighten significantly.  I wasn't going to even be racing, just shooting vid from the Baxter team boat but I was just as excited.  Wind whistled in my window all night long, sleep was scattered.

Arrived in Lahaina at 6:45 and our skipper, Mike Holmes from Molokai reported a very rough crossing.  The Baxter team posted along with a very jovial Chuck Patterson, keen to do his first Pailolo, M2M.  Conner was stretched out below while Chuck and I swapped old stories on the deck and laughed.  He's a guy who  must have the biggest grin on the planet.   That grin grew bigger as we blazed up the coast on glassy seas, finally crashing into a very solid wind line off Kaanapali. Yep the conditions were outasight.

We pulled into a glassy Honolua Bay, which for old surfers like me, is a sacred place of untold beauty and an incredible spot to begin a race.  Most of the racers did preliminary a warm up paddle around the bay  and I was able to shoot some close ups of all who came around our boat to drop stuff and chat.  Young Dylan from South Africa posted in one of the smallest escort boats I'd seen, with the SA flag waving.  Fun stuff.  He was using the same SB he's been using so far on his trip, without a rudder, an ambitious undertaking for the Pailolo.

Start was the usual sprint blaze but soon there was a break out pod of around eight paddlers which quickly turned into a pod of four following, not drafting mind you, Conner.  Conner, Dave, and Livio from Maui and Dave Kssa from Sydney OZ(Kssa on our forum)  Dave Kssa had already proved his worth in previous runs and despite his jovial personality, a closer inspection of his eyes would inform you that this guy is a very keen competitor.

However within that first mile, the Conner and Dave show separated from Livio and Kssa.  Kalama maintained a constant charge on Conner's burst regime and the two were quite close with a see-saw for around 8-9 miles.  The channel was as good as the channel could be.  There were very tall and massive broad swells moving through deep water as usual but what wasn't as usual was that the wind speed  allowed Dave and Conner to chop glides off the crest tops and make a turn to the right.  My GPS on the boat showed 7.5-10mph during this stretch for these two, which is phenomenal for deep-water open ocean speeds on an SUP.

I found it interesting, even in the first early miles, to see how each of the two leaders adjusted to bodily stresses.  Dave would catch glides and do Lance Carson type soul arches to alleviate some of the static contraction building up in his back, looking graceful in a hardcore situation.  Conner on the other hand, would squat down so low his butt was almost touching the board as he pulled into almost hollowed out sections of crest tops.  Who has legs like that?  Only the young.  In this channel environment the two seemed a remarkably even match.

But as we neared Molokai, almost ten miles into the race, out of nowhere, Livio began moving up fast.  Soon he was within the camera frame with Conner and Dave.  I was very excited.  As someone shooting video, more racers means better footage. Livio was risking all by fully dropping down the face of a few monsters instead of only riding the top.   It appeared to be paying off.  I bet his GPS was spiking very high.

Racing this distance (28 miles) absolutely requires hydration and nutritional help.  Support boats can carry those supplements and this was where the Baxter team (Conner's parents, Keith and Karen), excel.  It's a well-oiled machine.   Karen mixes the shake and Keith throws on a pair of swim fins.  After signaling to Conner, Keith leaps into the deep blue, a true ‘leap of faith’. (kind of what I think of as blundering into south central LA and running out of gas).  Keith didn't even flinch.   Well away from the boat, Conner was able to squat down and pick up from the outstretched hand of his father, his go-juice or bar.    Then we in the boat would double back for the Keith retrieve.  It was an exceptional thing to witness.

I was looking for Dave's method but failed to see what he did because separation had slowly begun to occur.  Conner was pulling away.

Before we hit outside Kamalo, the sea surface had changed dramatically.  Glides were slowing down and growing relatively steeper as the bottom grew shallower.  Large scalloped bowl sections lined up and with breaking crest tops.  Still, these glides weren't what you might consider easy entries.  The faces were still initially shallow faced as they stood up (by Maliko standards) and Conner was hammering down race start speed sprints to drop in.  But once in it was quite a sight.    The faces would open up like no ones business, and the fancy and fast foot work was in full gear.  He dropped so many that were ‘toenail clinging’ and which I thought were a  for sure wipeout but somehow he would pull out the drop.  He wasn't perfect and did finally crash very hard, the kind of crash that would take the starch out of a guy like me, but Conner was up in a blink and if you've seen that race vid from Haliewa then you know how fast that is.   Conner maintained his knee pumping, energy bunny routine throughout this final 15-mile stretch of the race.  How fast?  Wicked fast.  My guess is around 11mph average for this section.  I bumped my GPS somewhere along the channel section so I don't have that speed but I do know this.  Our boat had a cruising speed, which wasn't sufficient to keep up with the kid.  Sometimes the boat would drop in along with the kid and we’d keep up but otherwise we'd have to throttle up to catch him almost every 40 seconds.  As Peter posted a 9.2 average is blazing fast for his record time.  The word from people have been doing that particular run for as long as it's been done on an SUP, is that yesterday was the best conditions yet.

Open ocean inter -channel racing is still a very fringe wing of the sport of SUP and the logistics for doing it, while maybe not as much as a mountaineering expedition, are still significant with all the incumbent dangers that the open ocean can bring.  Like powder skiing in the backcountry, the very elements that can enhance the experience, can be the same that could be your undoing.   All the participants in these kinds of channel crossing are heavy hitters and have a strong enough focus to keep going a marathon distance, navigating through mountainous seas.  I've seen some stuff in my life, some really impressive shit but this was right up there among the top.

I'm not great on boats but drank alot of ginger tea the day before.   I was doing fine until the shooting starting getting very intense.  Dave Kalama wore his famous racing red shirt and was easy to spot in my frame and since Conner was near him during the first half, it was good.  But Conner had a white shirt and during the high-speed Kamalo stretch, it was straining to find him.   Like reading a book in a car, I began to suffer some nausea.  I’d heave a bit and Keith would take over and then I’d be back on it.  In any case the thought of going back to Maui upwind on the ferry, as I originally planned, were thrown quickly out the window.  Pounding into those size seas upwind would have been torture for me.  So I went back with Karen and Conner on the small puddle jumper and was treated to a stunning ride along the north shore cliff side of Molokai at sunset…  fitting end to a very long day.

Already had a look at the vid and pics.  Looks very good.  Working on them so stay tuned....

Here are Bill's videos of the race (keep watching to see all three videos):

Below are Interviews I did before and after the race for Radio Chum with some of the top finishers and the event organizer.

I did not have video to go along with these audio interviews, so I made a slideshow of the event, all four interviews have the same slideshow playing.

Rodney Kilborn da Handsome Bugga :

I'm looking forward to doing this race again next year.
While the distance it is almost as long (27 miles) as the Molokai to Oahu race (32 miles), this race is just so much faster and funner.  While the M2O race keeps getting harder and harder as you get closer to the finish, the M2M race keeps getting better and better.  If you are interested in doing a long distance channel crossing solo for the first time, I highly recommend this race.  

Robert Stehlik

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