SUPtheMag.com had the opportunity to catch up with the newest champion of the Molokai2Oahu race, 19-year-old Talia Gangini. In only her second solo M2O crossing, the young Mauian out-paddled previous M2O champion Andrea Moeller for a victory and new record of 4:55:02. – Shari Coble
SUPtheMag: Congratulations on your win. How do you feel after your victory?
Talia Gangini: I don’t know how it happened- Andrea is such an animal! I think I’m still in shock- I couldn’t sleep last night. It’s such an amazing accomplishment. Winning the Molokai2Oahu was always a goal, but more of a long-term goal. I’m just really happy it happened sooner than later.
SUP: The conditions seemed a bit rougher this year, how did the Ka’iwi Channel feel during the crossing?
TG: Crossing the Channel of Bones is definitely a love-hate relationship. The cross-chop from everyone in the beginning is crazy, but after 30 minutes you look around and you’re just alone in the middle of the ocean, waiting for your escort boat to find you. I trained on more flatwater and upwind this year instead of downwinders. Coming from Maui, I’m so spoiled with great downwinders like the Maliko and toward the end of the race, as I came to China Walls, I had to hammer upwind for 2 miles straight, so the training paid off, but my arms were shaking with every stroke. It was the hardest race I’ve ever done and I thought my body was going to collapse. During the race I kept thinking, ‘this seems harder than last year,’ and I was fighting myself to keep a good mindset. I wished I could teleport to the finish when I saw the buoys.
SUP: Did you know you were leading the race?
TG: I had no clue where I was in the pack, I was just going for a good time. My friend, Lauren Spalding, was on my escort boat and I talked to her before the race about trying to finish in 5 hours and 20 minutes. Last year I finished in 5:30, so I figured shaving 10 minutes off would be a good goal. When I got to China Walls my escort boat told me I had first place in the bag, so from there I tried to set the record.
SUP: How important was it having a good support crew escorting you?
TG: Having a great crew on the escort boat really helps. I had a really supportive group of people, including my boyfriend and Lauren, and a great captain. They knew when to cheer me on or back off, and when to tell me to hammer it. Having Lauren on-board was great because she took me under her wing and is one of the reasons I’m paddling today.
SUP: Did you get any advice before your second M2O?
TG: My boyfriend and I talked before the race and he said to give it my all. I gave it my all for myself and for Jesus, and just left it all out on the channel. My Dad taught me to read bumps and the ocean when I was younger, which is really important [for the crossing], and Andrea has taught me a lot over the years too. We’ve paddled and surfed together and I’ve always tried to listen and remember every word she’s told me because she knows so much and is such a great athlete. We start training about 4 months in advance for M2O, but the training really began when I first started paddling.