The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships may just be the hardest race in the world. Clocking in at 32 miles, the Ka’iwi Channel—or the Channel of Bones—shows paddlers what they’re really made of.
Or they show us. Connor Baxter broke his previous channel record with a time of 4:08:08 on his unlimited board—and claimed his third M2O title in the process. If he’s not the most well-rounded racer in the world, we don’t know who is. But bumps are where Baxter feels most comfortable and there were bumps on offer this year. And it wasn’t even “great,” according to racers. One of these years M2O is going to get perfect conditions and it’s anybody’s guess how fast Baxter can cross Ka’iwi.
2013 champion Travis Grant didn’t make it easy for him, though, switching leads back-and-forth with Baxter mid-channel before chasing him right up to the finish to complete his crossing a little over a minute later (he broke Baxter’s previous record too). Grant is another guy who flies in good downwind conditions. A strong finish from a perennial contender.
Scott Gamble, an underground Hawaiian paddler, rounded out the top three after a second-place finish last year. Gamble proved again that although he rarely races outside of the Hawaiian Islands, when the world’s best are together, he can hang with them.
Gamble edged out early leader Kai Lenny, who would eventually drop off his original pace and settle for fourth. A disappointing finish for Lenny, who still hasn’t added an M2O title to his ever-growing trophy case. And you know he wants it.
In a ridiculous performance, Travis Baptiste finished fifth overall on a stock 14-foot board. Against a bunch of the fastest guys in the world. On unlimited boards. Crazy.
On the women’s side, Sonni Hönscheid put on a dominant performance, clocking in the third-fastest time in solo women’s SUP history. After her third place last year, Hönscheid has established herself as one of the best open ocean paddlers in the world.
Jenny Kalmbach, who took second last year, repeated this year, finishing a couple minutes short of Hönscheid in a battle that lasted all the way across the channel. Kalmbach is a force in any race she enters (she won the inaugural Battle of the Paddle and the 2009 M2O and nearly picked off Annabel Anderson at laster year’s Battle of the Paddle and this season’s Carolina Cup). We have a feeling that once she hits the top of the podium again, she’ll be hard to knock off.
New Zealander Penelope Strickland come out of nowhere to claim third while Barbara Nunes, another little-known name, took fourth.
Another big year for M2O. The race that always seems to deliver.
1: Connor Baxter (4:08:08)
2: Travis Grant (4:09:15)
3: Scott Gamble (4:19:57)
4: Kai Lenny (4:23:35)
5: Travis Baptiste (4:23:54) STOCK
6: Dave Kalama (4:24:44)
7: Livio Menelau (5:31:15)
8: Kaeo Abbey (4:35:26)
9: Armie Armstrong (4:41:06)
10: Andrew Logreco (4:50:50)
1: Sonni Hönscheid (5:12:38)
2: Jenny Kalmbach (5:15:40)
3: Penelope Strickland (5:27:12)
4: Barbara Nunes (5:36:03)
5: Talia Decoite (5:37:43)
6: Andrea Moller (5:44:30)
7: Bailey Rosen (5:58:37)
8: Lani Gomes (6:43:03)
Full results here.
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