Molokai 2 Oahu | Paddling’s Most Prestigious Race Is Tomorrow
Industry leaders refer to it as “the closest thing to a world championship in SUP.” Earth’s most accomplished racers consider it the ultimate challenge in paddling. It’s the sport’s definitive race event, taking place on the world’s most revered paddle crossing, between two islands that once set and continue to uphold a standard by which all standup racers gauge their abilities. It’s the holy grail of downwind racing; the Mecca of ocean paddling. It’s Molokai 2 Oahu (M2O) and it’s happening again tomorrow.
Nearly two decades ago, a group of dedicated Hawaiian paddlers officiated the first-ever paddle race across the Ka’iwi Channel—also known as the Channel of Bones—a 32-mile crossing from Molokai to Oahu commonly referred to as “the most grueling paddle crossing on earth.” In founding M2O, these pioneering racers were emulating what their Hawaiian ancestors had done for countless years prior—harnessing the region’s annual mid-summer trade winds and riding the freight train-sized bumps those winds create across the great Pacific channel from island to island. Tomorrow, the tradition continues with the 19th annual Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard Championships.
What to Expect This Year
The promise of excitement, adventure, challenge and carnage inherent to the most demanding event on the race calendar is as apparent as ever this year. So is the likelihood that a handful of the world's top champions—Connor Baxter, Kai Lenny, Travis Baptiste, Andrea Moller, Annabel Anderson, Candice Appleby, to name some—will toe the rum line across the channel to Oahu. Similarly reliable is the advantage possessed by veteran legends like Jeremy Riggs when it comes to navigating the intricacies and nuances featured in the Channel of Bones. Safe to say—these components will play out in conventional style for tomorrow's race.
The trade winds that traditionally grace the Ka'iwi Channel this time of year are quite literally the driving force behind the M2O. With them, paddlers have been known to cross the 32-mile wide channel in just over four hours (last year, Connor Baxter set a new record in the unlimited class with a time of 4:08:08). Without these winds, the crossing can take double that time, even for the most conditioned paddlers.
This year, to the most extreme extent in recollected history, the winds are virtually nonexistent.
"We've had a windless Hawaiian summer," Suzie Cooney, veteran Maui downwind racer and coach to some of the world's top paddlers, told SUP mag. "The trades that normally grace our predicted courses are just not cooperating this year. Tomorrow's race is going to be a showdown of those who have been training in all elements and are in the best physical condition."
The prospect of no wind is magnified by the passing of Tropical Storm Enrique, expected to track near the islands tomorrow with potential to shut down the wind altogether. Pair that factor with two major swells that are currently running their course through the channel—an east and a south—and conditions for tomorrow's race are expected to be entirely unique to the status quo for the Ka'iwi Channel.
See the full start-list of registered racers for tomorrow’s M2O.
Tune in to the live webcast tomorrow to witness the epic event in real time!
Check out the below videos for even more in-depth insight into the year’s most prestigious race event.
Check back with SUPthemag.com for live updates, exclusive analysis, and a full gallery recap of the 2015 Molokai 2 Oahu World Championships.
Molokai 2 Oahu Official Preview
America’s Cup Winner Jimmy Spithill Talks Racing the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships