Wind, Sun and 200 Stoked Paddlers
The 2015 Paddle Imua Presented by Bluesmiths Crafted Waterwear 2015
All photos: bluesmiths.com Words by John Smalley, Founder, BLUESMITHS
Last weekend, for the Bluesmiths Paddle Imua 2015 event, 200 male and female standup paddlers, OC-1 paddlers, OC-2 paddlers, Surf Skis and Prone Paddlers took to the water to raise funds for the benefit of Maui's children with special needs and specifically for Camp Imua—a one week camp in the West Maui Mountains. Bluesmiths Paddle Imua is about celebrating the lives of special needs children by embracing the community's connection to the ocean, and the event showcased our cause with great success.
Registration opened at 10am at the famous Maliko Gulch and paddlers slowly trickled in to get their race number, GPS tracker and Bluesmiths Race shirt. Ocean Sports Athletes the likes of Dave Kalama, Michi Schweiger, Loch Eggers, Jeremy Riggs, Kody Kerbox, Travis Baptiste, Livio Menelau, Andrea Moller and Sonni Hönscheid just to name a few, attended Bluesmiths Paddle Imua once again to meet, mix and mingle with those special needs kids and to compete on the famed Maliko Downwind Run. Bluesmiths Paddle Imua provides a great experience for those who see them as heroes, both children and athletes alike! Many who competed in the Olukai stayed for Paddle Imua, taking the opportunity to compete in two epic races back-to-back.
By 11:30am the gulch was packed with paddlers, family members, cars and trailers full of OC-1s and OC-2s, surf skis, prone paddles and stand-up boards – everyone was busy chatting, smiling and getting ready for what looked to be an epic run. The traditional Hawaiian Pule was held in front of the Bluesmiths registration tent and saw all 200 paddlers, volunteers and sponsors hold hands and bow their heads to receive the blessing of a save journey to the harbor. Shortly after it was time to get out on the water and grab that "perfect" starting position in the line-up inside Maliko gulch. It was tight and paddlers were inching and inching away from the starting line until at 12:55pm the official horn sent them off.
The conditions for this year's downwinder saw some epic winds of 20+ knots generating solid wind swell combined with a late season north swell that provided endless opportunities to catch those long glides all the way to Kahului Harbor. The last stretch of the race inside the harbor was grueling with strong gusts pushing paddlers further down into the harbor than they wished to go but did not discourage anyone from putting their head down and moving their paddles and boards, grinding all the way to the finish line that saw some serious sprinting battles between competitors but all Smiles, Hugs and Handshakes. Flowers leis were handed to every single finisher and a very enthusiastically cheering crowd made sure that everyone felt like a winner.
Bluesmiths Team Rider and Naish Brand Manager Michi Schweiger adds: " The Bluesmiths Paddle Imua Benefit Race turned out to be one of the windiest Maliko run races I have ever done. A combination of strong winds as well as some NW groundswell guaranteed wild open ocean conditions with great glides all the way down to the harbor. The kind of run where you are essentially surfing all the way. As one of the first races of the Hawaii downwind paddle season it is always great to connect with the crew of paddlers from all around the islands as well as with some international visitors."
Honorary chairperson of Paddle Imua and Bluesmiths ambassador, Andrea Moller, won her third straight title in the Women's Unlimited SUP category, but for her it is not about where you place, it's all for the kids as she comments: “This years Paddle IMUA was the most fun race ever! The conditions were epic, with strong winds and waves for a perfect downwind run. I’m stoked that I had a really good race, but even more important I was overly impressed of how our paddling community has stepped up to support this race. We all need to understand the importance of Camp IMUA for the kids, and how much this event supports the camp. Together we can support Camp IMUA’s children in and out of the water everyday."
Fellow Bluesmiths team-mate and Molokai 2014 winner Sonni Hönscheid came in second in the Women's Unlimited SUP class: “Paddle Imua presented by Bluesmiths was an amazing race, good conditions, really competitive! But besides a race it was a great event, a nice get together with friends and the IMUA family. IMUA is doing an amazing job in supporting the kids with special needs and to see those kids smiling, it’s priceless”
Pioneering waterman Dave Kalama who was a class of his own once again took top honors in the Men's Unlimited SUP: "Conditions today were excellent. Some massive glides and smiles out there. I had a great time! Paddle IMUA is a very worthy cause and I'm very happy to be involved here today.”
Bluesmiths Jeremy Riggs who finished second in the Men's Unlimited SUP class also showed his excitement about the day’s conditions and to be part of event: "The Paddle IMUA is one of the best events of the year. Such a great cause. You can't go wrong signing up for this event no matter what the conditions are. Today was awesome, we had smoking conditions. This had to be one of the best downwind races we've had on Maui in a long time. So much fun."
Bluemsiths Loch Eggers – waterman of the first hour adds: "This year's Bluesmiths Paddle Imua was super special for me. I finally engaged in what this race is all about: “The Camp Imua Kids”. This year I helped with the relay that the Imua kids participate in after the big race down the coast. It felt really good to see how stoked the kids were after the relay. They had huge smiles and busted out some Shakas for me which made me get all choked up. The Paddle Imua organizers along with the John Smalley team at Bluesmiths did a phenomenal job organizing this event for Camp Imua and the Maui paddling community. Looking forward to 2016 Paddle Imua. Aloha, Loch"
The 14-foot No Rudder SUP class saw local boy Travis Baptiste killing it coming in side-by-side with Jeremy Riggs on his Unlimited SUP while Naish's Kody Kerbox took second in that class and Robert Teriitehau third.
12'6" – Male
1) Bernd Roediger
2) Jeffrey Spencer
3) Alex Mawae
12'6" – Female
1) Annie Reickert
2) Tian Prior
3) Susie Grace
OC-1 paddler Felipe Gomes not only took top podium in his class but also mastered the run in just a little over one hour coming in first overall. Kingi Gilbert together with Ryan Murphy battled it out in the finishing sprint for the OC-1 class – sprinting up the shoot, putting only a split second between their second and third placement.
1) Dane Ward
2) Fiona Van Ammers
3) Catherine Deboni
1) Kristi Doughe/Lee Moyers
2) Wendy Giblin/Michael Gibli
3) Andrew Davioes/Katherine Moore
2) Michael Eiler/Wilson Angel
1) Denise Darval/Mindy Clark
2) Margie Kawaia/CoryKawaiaea
3) Chilli-Rae So/Michelle Cerizo
1) Michael Owens
2) Eric Rohozinski
3) Bram Denhaan
1) Alexander parker
2) Hogan Kania
3) Mark Moquin
The "Ohana festival" following the race was the perfect end to an unforgettable day of bringing the ocean community together for a great cause.
Thanks to Imua Family Services, the volunteers, the committee and everyone who turned out on the day. Big thanks also to our supporting sponsors Zevenbergen Capitol Investments, Goodfellows Bros Inc., SIC Racing, Aloha Aina Center, Costa, Aloha Mixed Plates, Maui Brewing Company, Deep Relief, Rising Sun Solar, Ke Nalu, Hawaiian Canoe Club, Ozolio, SeaToSummit.
Imua means "to move forward" in Hawaiian and we hope to see all of you and more for next years' race.
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