2016 Molokai 2 Oahu Breakdown and Gallery

Paddlers say the Ka’iwi Channel—the Channel of Bones—is unpredictable. They say it’s one of the toughest races in the world. They say there’s nothing like it. The 2016 Molokai 2 Oahu World Championships lived up to its reputation yesterday and more, delivering record times, wild conditions and their 20th year of competitive paddling.

Kai Lenny, put one of the last remaining race feathers in his cap by taking his first-ever M2O title—and breaking Connor Baxter’s course record by 27 seconds—after a few years of top-five finishes.

“For me it was 100 times better than last year,” Lenny told us. “The funniest thing is it was pretty average out there with pretty average bumps. The first half was really flat, the second half was a lot better. I think with 10 more knots of wind we would have gone sub-four (hours).”

Lenny credits much of his success to having a lighter racing schedule this year and also to his downwind practice on his hydrofoil.

“I trained less than I ever have for this race but I trained smarter,” he said. “My paddling technique was totally different, the way I'm riding glides is really different. I learned how to read the water better because of the hydrofoil. It taught me to be patient, you can’t dig into it that much.”

Sonni Hönscheid won her third M2O in a row in convincing fashion, setting a new personal record for the course along the way and beating the competition by 15 minutes.

“I really wanted to win again this year!” Hönscheid said. “I felt a bit more pressure. You come back (as two-time defending champion) and you know everyone’s going to follow you but you have to start every year from zero. I tried to focus on that.”

Distracting her focus was Annabel Anderson, who switched into the unlimited class at the last minute. Anderson finished four minutes behind Hönscheid in 2015 on a 14-footer when Hönscheid was on an unlimited.

“That didn't make it easy to relax about the whole thing,” she laughed. “I felt good the last couple weeks on Maui, just really comfortable in the ocean. I was confident.”

Hönscheid ended up taking the win by over 15 minutes.

SUP magazine was there in person, documenting the event and participating in it, to see The Channel first-hand. Editor Will Taylor teamed up with Morgan Hoesterey and Sales and Marketing Manager Andrew Mencinsky teamed up with North County San Diego Paddler Scott Shoemaker.

The Channel threw everything it had at paddlers this year. The race started sunny with a strengthening wind. Then, a series of squalls moved across the course and threw up some big bumps and wild conditions. The wind clocked north for a while and then almost died completely, making for short glides and a lot of hard paddling.

The saving grace was that the currents and tides around Oahu were favorable this year giving paddlers an advantage over years’ past, so even though the bumps weren’t fantastic, the last portion of the race—which is generally brutal—wasn’t as bad this year, allowing for record breaking performances from Lenny and prone paddler Matt Bevilacqua.

The 20th M2O was a historic one. We can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Look for the feature story from our experience at M2O in our upcoming Winter Issue.

Full results from the 2016 Molokai 2 Oahu race.

Our M2O event recap