Why We Love the OluKai Ho'olaule'a

We’re officially one day away from the kick-off to the downwind racing season at the 9th annual OluKai Ho'olaule'a. This two-day celebration of paddling and Hawaiian culture will take place on Kahului, Maui and always attracts the world’s top paddlers to this legendary event. The main event is an eight-mile downwind race on the world-renowned Maliko downwind run. But the OluKai Festival is about much more than simply one race, here are a few of the reasons we love (and will be competing) in this weekend’s Ho'o.

The Maliko Run

Make no mistake about it, Maui’s Maliko run is a dream come true for downwinder enthusiasts. Paddlers travel from around the world to take a crack at this whipping downwind run and for good reason too–it’s the best in the world. Starting in the wind protected Maliko Gulch, paddlers will stroke into the open ocean, hang a left and let the howling winds and bumps propel them to the finish at Kanaha Beach Park. Over 500 paddlers flock to this event yearly for one simple fact–the Maliko run is worth it.

The Best Paddlers in the World

With the world’s best downwinder comes the world’s best paddlers. Every year, the crème de la crème of standup paddlers take a crack at being crowned champion of this prestigious race. Yet for the men, every year there is one paddler standing in their way. Maui local and downwind master Connor Baxter has won this race five times in a row. Elite paddlers–including Mo Freitas, Travis Grant, Kai Lenny, and Dave Kalama–will continue to try and knock him off the thrown, but don’t expect Baxter to give up that crown anytime soon.

The women’s field is always stacked as well. Last year, it was German powerhouse Sonni Höenscheid who motored to victory over Kathy Shipman and Terrene Black. However, that race was without seven-time Ho'o champion Andrea Moller–who had to withdraw due to a leg injury incurred while surfing. With her back in the mix, expect a tough battle between the ladies as they fight to determine who will reign supreme on the Maliko.

Traditional Hawaiian Culture

The Olukai festival is both refreshing and inspiring because a large part of the focus is on preserving and educating others about Hawaiian culture. For example, this year the OluKai's Ama OluKai foundation is partnering with the Hui Aloha 'Aina Momona nonprofit for a Poi-making workshop. Workshops like these are instrumental to preserving and protecting Hawaiian cultural traditions, which the organizers of the OluKai have made it their mission to do.

Family-Friendly Event

What makes the OluKai such a special event is the sense of community and family atmosphere. Whether you are in the big race or not, there are plenty of educational and fun activities to keep the entire family entertained. This includes a non-competitive, three-mile 'Ohana Fun Paddle, traditional Hawaiian games, canoe rides, a lu'au and live music.

Stay Tuned!

In case you can’t tell, we are getting amp’d up for this weekend’s OluKai Ho'olaule'a. In addition to covering the race, we will also be competing alongside our fellow paddlers in this hallmark race. So keep your eyes on our Facebook page, our Instagram and of course, SUPthemag.com for complete coverage of the Ho’o.

Full Weekend Schedule


9 am—'Ohana Fun Paddle Start

10 am-3 pm—Music, Ama OluKai Foundation Giveback Activities, Hawaiian Games, Canoe Rides

12 pm—Maliko Downwind Eight-mile race to Kanaha Beach Park

1:30 pm—Lu'au and Live Music

3 pm—SUP Awards Ceremony


11 am-2 pm—Music, Ama OluKai Foundation Giveback Activities, Hawaiian Games, Canoe Rides

12 pm—OC1/OC2 Race

1:30 pm—Lu'au and Entertainment

2:30 pm—OC1/OC2 Awards Ceremony


Learn more about the 2017 Olukai Ho'olaule'a.