2016 Molokai 2 Oahu Preview

Photo by Erik Aeder
Photo by Erik Aeder

2016 Molokai 2 Oahu Preview

What happens when you put the world's very best paddleboarders on an island, send them racing to another island 32 miles away, across one of the world's windiest, deepest, most grueling channels in some of the ocean’s most thrilling conditions, then crown the victors with the most coveted crown in paddlesports?

M2O, baby. And it's happening again on Sunday.

The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships presented by Kona Longboard Island Lager kick off Sunday morning at 7:30am HST (10:30am PST). It'll mark the 20th anniversary of what has come to be revered as the world's most prestigious paddleboarding event, which grew from proud Hawaiian beginnings as a prone-only race before competitive SUP came along in 2010. This landmark year will see an unprecedentedly fast, unanimously stacked roster of the world's fastest and fittest paddlers, who can be followed on race day on SUPthemag.com or with the event's live tracker and blog.

Sunday's elite field will take to the Kai'wi Channel, also known as the Channel of Bones, not without the intensity of rivalry. Multiple-M2O victor Connor Baxter wil be on the water to challenge two-time and current champion Travis Grant on the men's side. Kai Lenny, as well as a slew of uprising Australian talents, will also be jockeying for their first M20 titles.

"Every year SUP racing gets more and more competitive," says Lenny, who's finished top-4 in the standup division each year since 2012. "In the unlimited class, two guys to watch are Connor (Baxter) and especially Travis (Grant), and the Australian guard—James Casey, Toby Cracknell, Matt Nottage—is also looking really fast right now. It could go a lot of ways depending on the conditions."

On the women's side, current and two-time M20 champion Sonni Honscheid will be defending her title against the likes Annabel Anderson, who finished second overall among the women last year on a stock board, as well as this year's Maui 2 Molokai queen, Devin Blish.

"It's going to be my fifth year crossing the Ka'iwi Channel," says Honscheid. It's a challenge—see how far can you get, reach your limits and surprise yourself by going over your 'limits.'"

The perameters of those limits will largely be dictated by the wind and weather conditions, which are notoriously variable and subject to spells of both flat and fierce winds.

"We have all these hurricanes north of us that makes the weather really difficult to forecast," Lenny says. "Right now it looks like there's going to be wind, but last year there was zero wind and it was predicted to be windy. You never really know until you wake up and gos."

Currently, a near dead-east wind is gusting at 17 to 20 knots across the Channel of Bones, with wind swell up to eight feet and scattered showers sent from the offshore hurricanes. Last year, conditions were grim with exceptionally light wind and glassy waters, making the 32-mile slog to Oahu a serious grind for the contenders. This year shows more promise weather-wise, but as the veteran racers will tell you—we just won't know until race day.

Stay tuned to SUPthemag.com and our social media channels for live, in-depth and onsite coverage of the 2016 Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships presented by Kona Longboard Island Lager.

A look back at last year’s M2O