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!
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.”
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.
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.
“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!
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.