On Sunday, July 29, 2012, athletes will cover 32 miles of open ocean between the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai and Oahu. They will battle strong currents and surf for hundreds of yards atop waves that can reach more than 12 feet.
After establishing a seemingly insurmountable record of ten consecutive victories at M2O in 2011, Australian Jamie Mitchell will not race this year. His departure guarantees a new champion in the men’s traditionalpaddleboard division.
To finish, let alone win this division is considered the crowning achievement by both men and women in this prestigious race who rely solely on the power of their arms to propel their boards across the Channel of Bones.
The top men in the traditional division will not only be jockeying for the title, they also will chase a course record of 4 hours, 40 minutes, 31 seconds, Mitchell’s final stamp of dominance applied to his tenth win in this famed race.
However, accomplishing this feat will be made more difficult as all athletes in the channel will need to race against an invisible competitor that will pull at their boards beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. A northerly drifting “dropping tide” is expected to work against the athletes as they navigate to Maunalua Bay on Oahu’s south side.
“Last year, conditions were ideal and many paddlers set event and personal records,” said M2O Race Director Mike Takahashi. “This year, the dropping tide will add a considerable amount of navigational uncertainty.”
Weather Prediction Looks Good
Paddlers will enjoy moderate trade winds with favorable direction on race day. The top male sup paddlers are back this year led by 17-year-old Connor Baxter, Standup Journal’s “Junior of the Year.” Last year, the Maui native set a course record en route to his first M2O championship (4:26:10). Since then, Baxter has been consistently claiming top finishes, most notably in the Maui Triple Crown of Paddling and last year’s California Battle of the Paddle.
Scott Gamble’s second-place finish (4:30:10) to Baxter last year was the result of several missteps during water bottle exchanges with his team boat in the closing miles. Should the 36-year-old Oahu resident improve this year, the 2011 result could likely be reversed.
Race fans will want to keep their eyes on 19-year-old Kai Lenny from Maui. After dominating the world sup surfing championship for the past two years, Lenny will compete this year on a stock SUP board. Even racing on a stock board, he is likely to finish top five overall and has a good chance of beating his counterparts who will all ride unlimited boards. Lenny first completed the M2O in the prone class at the age of 13 with his father Martin.
Andrew Logeco, the two-time men’s sup stock champion (2010-11), won’t make Lenny’s crossing easy. The 27-year-old from Oahu has experience on his side and the top stock SUP finish times – 5:13:45 set in 2011 is his fastest.
Also from Maui, Brazilian born Livio Menalau is back after finishing third just three minutes behind Gamble (4:33:13) in 2011.
The sup champion in 2010 and famous big wave surfer Dave Kalama returns. He was one of seven men to post top-ten record setting times last year on his way to a fourth place finish (4:46:52).
Women’s Class Going to be Fun to Watch
The women’s sup race will be focused on three names: Andrea Moller, Talia Gangini and Jenny Kalmbach.
Moller, 32, who was born in Brazil and now lives on Maui is again the odds-on favorite as she returns to defend her 2011 title. With her win, she also set the current course record of 5:26:51. In addition to her talents on an sup board, the full-time mom and emergency medical technician is credited as being the first woman to surf the big wave break known as Jaws.
At the age of 19, Gangini holds the second fastest time on record (5:30:57) set in 2011 when she finished second to Moller by four minutes. Given her focus on training this year, the Maui native will be a formidable competitor.
Kalmbach, 29, the women’s 2009 champion from the Big Island, will push the pace on Moller and Gangini. Last year, she finished fourth in a time of 5:46:11.
The toughest way to cross the channel is on a stock board, measuring up to 12 feet for prone paddlers or 12 feet, 6 inches for SUP. The following are a collection of outstanding solo athletes who will compete in the stock traditional paddleboard category:
Jack Bark, 18, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, 1st place stock team category, M2O 2011
Zeb Walsh, 29, Victoria, AUS, 4th place stock, M2O 2011, Patagonia athlete
Fletcher Davies, 17, Newport Beach, AUS, 3rd place stock team category, M2O 2011
Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau, 26, Honolulu, HI, 2nd place stock, Cline Mann race 2011
Kai Hall, 36, Haleiwa, HI, 3rd place stock, Cline Mann race 2011
Surf Heroes Rob Machado & Joel Parkinson Will Be on This Year’s Start Line
The popularity of paddleboarding and the challenge of the channel are also attracting world-class athletes from outside the paddling elite. One of surfing’s most respected athletes Rob Machado will take his wave riding skills to the start line on Molokai in the team sup category with M2O veteran and long-time friend Brian Szymanski.
Top ranked professional surfer and current ASP world tour world title contender Joel “Parko” Parkinson is partnering with his trainer and fellow Australian Wes Berg in the two-man stock paddleboard category.
Follow live race results on Facebook and Twitter (#M2O). www.Molokai2Oahu.com is the official race website.
Duke’s Waikiki continues its long-time support of the event by hosting athlete packet pick-up on Thursday, July 26. The awards ceremony is held at the famous Outrigger Canoe Club. The race starts on Sunday, July 29 at 7:30 a.m. from the west shores of Molokai, finishing on the beaches of Oahu at Muanalua Bay.
M2O thanks its partners: Kona Longboard Island Lager, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui Jim, GoPro, Dukes, Garmin, Teva, Patagonia, Rogue SUP, Waterman’s Applied Science,StandUp Paddle Magazine, Sambazon, Ocean Legends Dive Shop, Hobie Bags, Hotel Renew and Aqua Resorts.