The author (in red) searches for his groove during the 2016 Molokai 2 Oahu World Paddle Championships. This year, he’s back for another round. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

M2O 2017: A Racer’s Perspective

I wasn't sure that I wanted to do this race. I doubted myself and my dedication even a couple weeks ago with only a few training sessions to go.


Because it’s the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships. M2O is the open-ocean paddling competition and it draws all the best downwind paddlers in the world to see how fast they can cross the 32 miles of the Ka'iwi Channel—the Channel of Bones.


The name alone causes mortal paddlers such as myself to shiver with anxiety. What business do I have thinking that I could take this thing on?

I'm not sure. I got sucked in. Last year I was lucky enough to do the race on a team with paddler and storyteller Morgan Hoesterey, who was the first woman to SUP across in the race. She's done it nine times since.

It was an amazing experience. The start line with all those paddling stars. The blue of the water, thousands of feet deep. The feeling of being in the open ocean between two Hawaiian Islands with nothing but a paddle and board. The payoff of having trained for months and completing something physically demanding.


When Morgan and I finished last year some friends said, "Now you have to do the whole thing."

I laughed. "I'm good," I thought.

I believed I had it out of my system. Too much training. Too much planning. Too much work.

And then registration came around. I was qualified for a spot in the race (repeat racers have priority entry, the others are decided by lottery. Yes, even getting a slot at M2O is that competitive).

I remembered a quote my mother had hanging in our house when I was growing up, credited to H. Jackson Brown: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did you.”

I felt like if I had a spot I should take it. So I did. Just in case I could work up the nerve.

I started training, building a base and getting ready. I put myself on a weekly plan that included interval training, gym workouts and distance paddles, building toward the endurance necessary to race in between islands, even if my mind was only still half in it.

Over the four months of training I often hoped for a way out. A minor injury that would give me a good excuse. A logistical hitch that made it impossible for me to get there. A work engagement I couldn't get out off. No such luck. I also kept telling people that I was going to do it. I could back out on myself but not once I started telling people. That's when it began to feel real.

The training consumed almost all my free time. I started to feel strong and to be more present in the workouts, enjoying the pain, the sweat and the feeling of confidence that grew over time. I still dreaded my long weekend paddles but I even started to fall into the rhythm with those once I was out on the water. I often envisioned the blue hue of the water mid-channel. I wanted to see it again. Under my own power.

And now it's here. The training is done. The waiting is done. The waking up thinking about it is done—well, I have a couple more nights of that. But here I am, writing this on a plane to Honolulu. Tomorrow I'll be in Molokai, looking back across the Ka'iwi with almost 200 other racers, knowing that there's only one last thing to do.


Coverage of M2O 2017 presented by SIC Maui.