2015 OluKai Ho’o: Local Suzie Cooney Talks What’s New
Suzie Cooney has worked behind the scenes at the OluKai Ho'o—Maui's famed North Shore downwind race—for the past five years. A Maui local and veteran of the North Shore downwinding scene, Cooney knows the course, its nuances and history as well as any paddler. But this year—for the first time in its seven-year span—the event will be a bit different. Here, Cooney breaks down the changes and gives us a heads up on what to expect at next weekend's 2015 OluKai Ho'o.
SUP: How is the course going to be different this year?
SC: Normally the course runs from up on Maliko Gulch down to Kanaha Beach, and paddlers can pick any line they like to take to the beach. But this year—instead of the usual buoy placement of years past—the buoys will set up in a gate-like formation for all paddlers to go through, and placed and decided upon on the morning of the event. We expect they'll be placed somewhere just east of where the paddlers usually turn left and head toward the beach to begin their 300-yard dash to the finish. Normally it's a free-for-all, and you can go over any reef you like to come into the beach. But this year, there will be cameras on the finish gate and paddlers of all levels in the 8-mile race will be required to go through the gate or risk disqualification.
What's the reason for the course change?
The main reason is safety. There's an inner reef that, depending upon the tide, sometimes people get hung up on. If the waves are big there's always a lot of carnage and it's hard for the skis to get in and out. It can create a hazard for the paddlers. So after years of conversation, the crew decided to eliminate that worry by moving the buoys, which will be in the formation of a gate-like setup. It's going to change people's strategy on the fly because the buoy placement won't be announced officially until the morning of the race.
How is that going to influence the paddlers?
The racers will have a bit more of a physical challenge if the winds are east (offshore), because they'll need to paddle head-on into the wind. But I don't think it will make much of a difference for the elite paddlers. It will make for a more interesting finish, because everyone will be forced to come in through the same area. It's going to even out the playing field toward the end because everyone will be forced to take a similar line.
Anything else new at this year's OluKai Ho'o?
On Friday we're doing the first ever demo day, which is a pre-launching event within the event. It's free, and will have the pros, industry leaders, fans and visitors on hand to get up close and personal in a casual environment. People visiting can come engage in our community, learn some local knowledge and rub elbows with the pros. It's a great way for the industry to showcase their boards too. It's already been very well received and I think it'll be really good for both the industry and the community.
Learn more about Suzie Cooney, her personal training services and her upcoming book.
Register for the race at the OluKai Ho’o.
Coverage from past years’ OluKai Ho’o.