Molokai 2015 – A Maiden Voyage

on Jul 10 in Downwind, Molokai, Racing, Surfski, Team Think, Uncategorized, Uno Max by

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Molokai 2015 – maiden voyage across the Kawaii Channel

The idea of doing an open ocean ski race from one island to another is quite appealing, daunting  & exciting all rolled into one, make that  crossing the ” Channel of Bones” from Molokai to Oahu, a distance of 53km, and you know this will be a experience of highs and lows.

6 weeks earlier my friend Julie Sladden and I discussed this years paddle4pink paddle, which raises funds for breast cancer in Tasmania, Molokai came up and I was not really keen with only 6 weeks until race day and said I no. The Next day I had a call and Julie said your going and proceeded to organise me heading to Molokai. She was not having NO as an answer. With some very generous support from people she had made the decision for me. And also with the approval of my better half I had to start training hard. This year had a twist though. The week prior Julie would do the same distance in the Tamar River (tide assisted) to get a time for me to beat. People placed bets/pledges on who would would get the fastest time which placed another spin on our fundraiser.

(Check paddle4pink out on Facebook and help out in someway, even just share the page to spread the word.)

Although I was doing the crossing for a fundraiser, it is also a bucket list race I have wanted to do for a long while and wanted to go well in. I planned my training and got advice.

I had talked my best mate Grant into coming along for a holiday and help out in my support boat, which he was delighted to know was a 34 ft scarab. And our captains name was Sam Souza who had done many crossing himself.
We left on the 24th to get a full week in before the race and check out the sites, and stayed at Colony Surf ,right next door the the Outrigger Canoe Club. This place is amazing ,all the paddlers train from here all week ,the club organises bus and trailer for paddle backs, but the best bit is meeting so many people from around the world who come for the same reason, to challenge themselves at Molokai.

When I arrived my Think Uno Max was waiting at hotel so went straight for a paddle, thanks Stew for letting me use your ski!

The next few days were spent paddling, eating, paddling, sightseeing and shopping. As race day got closer we met up with Sam to discuss a few things and this was when I started to get nervous. He had so many stories and not all good. He took us for a drive and pointed out the dos and don’ts  and his knowledge helped heaps come race day. I also talked with Greg Bennett as he has 13 crossings under his belt and lots of top 3 placings, so if I was to listen to Greg I’d be in good stead.

Race day arrived and a 4am rise was on the cards and straight to the airport to catch our flight and meet the Stubbs family, Jamie who is a legend of Tasmanian paddling was also doing his maiden crossing. It was great to do it at the same time with someone from my home state and also someone who I have looked up to paddling and surf life saving.

Once we had Arrived at Molokai the next bit was finding my ski on someone else’s boat, and also find my escort boat to swim out and pick my gear up. Once all this was sorted the next hour was just waiting, thinking of how I was going to approach this race I had never done, never been in the channel and land is 50km away. On the way over there was lots of white caps and the forecast was looking favourable , so just kept saying this will be fun. Enjoy the moment.

15 minutes before the race started we gathered on the beach and David Mocke had some wise words and wishes to say, it was then into the water for the start.

Once on the start line you could make the headland we had to navigate to so that was a blessing( some years you can’t see it) so that eased my nerves a bit and helped with the “stay North” advice I received from Greg. The race got underway after a bit of creeping and I stayed up the north end not going too hard but still trying to make the most of the bumps on offer. I certainly didn’t want to cook myself in first 20 km. The  runs for the first 30km seemed ok but nothing the channel is famous for, actually with the mixed in wake from escort boats it was bit all over the show and I had to work hard but was also thankful was not dead flat.
After a couples hours the runs had disappeared and it was side on and becoming a battle. As we hit the 40 km mark I was questioning why I did the race and was cramping and not enjoying myself. I had to compose myself and relax and embrace the whole thing, a very small percentage get to do this race let alone finish it. So told myself stop whinging, I’m very fortunate to be here and so many more people are having harder times in their lives, this is meant to be fun so suck it up.

As we got closer to Port Lock people started to converge at similar times and I seemed to have taking a decent line by staying north(thanks Greg) and managed to get some runs again along China Wall and started to try and pick up the pace again for the finish. Coming around China Wall I managed to grab a decent wave and rode for about 300 m so that was a great feeling and time to rest up for the grind into the wind for the finish. The two large yellow buoys didn’t seemed to get closer but just had to keep paddling. I managed to finish in a time 3:49  and was great to see Greg standing at finish with a smile taking photos, I later found out I was 10th overall in the solo ski section, so I was pretty happy with my first attempt and feel I have learned a lot from the race.

Next hour was spent laying down trying to  straighten out and have some Hawaiian food that was put on at the finish, the ants decided they needed the food more than me and I didn’t have the energy to argue. So we moved so we could watched all the people finish, performance of the day for me was two young ladies 13 years old who did a team race on a SUP, 8 hours it took in challenging cross chop and wind. Hats off to the these young ladies was a simply amazing effort . Was great to see everyone watch and applaud them come across the line .

We stuck around for presentations and watched an Aussie be crowned champ, Corey hill finished 1st, ahead of clint Robinson and Hank McGregor in an amazing paddle.

We headed home for a feed and some beers to celebrate and catch up up on everyone’s stories. Everyone has a story and this is what makes it so great, everyone has there own experience.

Next day I spent shopping to earn brownie points so my wife will let me come back and try and do the race better next year!!!

Well done to all who raced and took the challenge.

Mahalo everyone who made this trip possible.


Luke O’Garey




Thanks to Pacific Paddler for the photo.