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Maui to Molokai downwind challenge: Recap by Connor Baxter

This year’s Maui-to-Molokai downwind challenge was another epic battle between reigning champion, Starboard’s Connor Baxter and NSP team rider, Travis Grant.   In this recap, generously offered by Connor, he shares his winning attitude as the way he was able to squeeze by Grant, after Travis had established a sizeable lead during the race.

Put your head down, find your glide and don’t forget to have fun.  Those are the words of a true champion.  Thanks, Connor!

Connor Baxter Starboard Maui to Molokai M2M boat

Connor Baxter finding his rhythm on the Maui-to-Molokai run this year to beat Travis Grant and become 8X champion of the channel crossing.

The Boys and the Bumps

This year’s 8th annual Maui-to-Molokai was another epic battle and channel crossing.

Coming straight from Europe after two months of flat water racing, I was jumping up and down like a kid ready to race downwind. I got back to Maui in Wednesday night, so I only had two days to recoup before the race.  I got in a few warm up Maliko runs in before Saturday.

“I knew I was going to have to paddle hard and catch a lot of bumps in order to win my 8th straight channel crossing.”

Connor Baxter Starboard Maui to Molokai M2M riding bumps

“Put your head down and have fun.” Those are the winning words from Connor who’s perpetual enthusiasm and good stoke gives him the energy to spare in head to head contests like this.

Strong Wind and Stiff Competition:  a perfect formula for success

The forecast looked great – Northeast 15 to 20mph.  The morning of the race, we had to get to the boat at 6:30AM, load up the boards and head up to Honolua Bay from Lahaina.  The race was an early start at 9:30AM.  My dad blasted up to Honolua for the start of the 27 mile, 3 hour paddle.

“I took off hard, but knew it was going to be a long race …”

The wind was up early and I knew there was going to be some bumps out there.  I unloaded my unlimited and got warmed up for a bit before we started.  On the start line, I saw Travis Grant, James Casey and Kody Kerbox.  I knew I was going to have to paddle hard and catch a lot of bumps in order to win my 8th straight channel crossing.

Connor Baxter Starboard Maui to Molokai M2M start

At the start of the race, with super chargers Travis Grant and James Casey in the mix, Connor knew he’d have to find the glides to bring him home in front.

Staying Focused, Finding the Glides

I jumped into the water and got cooled off right before the horn blew.  I took off hard, but knew it was going to be a long race and I just had to wait until the bumps.  The wind was up and we got into some small chop and James, Travis and I started to pull away from the group.  The bumps started to get better and better the more into the race I got.

“Once he got this gap, I didn’t stop chasing him until the last six miles.”

After the first hour, the three of us were still catching bumps next to each other and then Travis caught a massive bump and just ran with it.  Once he got this gap, I didn’t stop chasing him until the last six miles.  The next hour and a half I was getting some insane bumps, but Travis just stayed the same distance in front.  It wasn’t until I got to Kamalo Buoy when I just put my head down and started having fun.  I began getting some long glides and slowly started catching up to Travis.

Connor Baxter Travis Grant Maui to Molokai M2M-1

Connor trailed Travis for much of the race, and in the last 6 miles pulls into the lead by chasing bumps and staying positive.

“I got even with him with about six miles to go and I knew what I had to do.”

Travis went more north – more of an inside line – closer to Molokai whereas I stayed where the bumps were just going off!  I got even with him with about six miles to go and I knew what I had to do.  I got into my typical rhythm and just started to have some fun, getting some insane steep glides and surfing left to right.  I noticed the warehouse building in the harbor and saw that I was a safe distance in front of Travis which gave me chicken skin, knowing I had just won my 8th straight Maui to Molokai!  I finished with a time of 3:09 – not beating my record of 2:55 – but that previous day was nuking wind!

Connor Baxter Starboard Maui to Molokai M2M glide

Riding home: these waters are Connor’s home territory and, if anyone knows how to have fun in them, it’s him (and Kai, and Zane, and Mo … 😉 Oh, to be a Maui boy!

Staying Positive and All the Right Moves:  Congrats Connor!

“I got into my typical rhythm and just started to have some fun, getting some insane steep glides and surfing left to right.”

I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Futures Fins, Dakine, Hammer Nutrition, GoPro, Garmin, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Onit Pro, UB Super and Hi-Tech Sports!

Also, a big Mahalo to all the event organizers.

Aloha,
Connor Baxter

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Maui to Molokai downwind challenge: Recap by Connor Baxter
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