Molokai 2 Oahu is much more than a race. While all races are tests to some degree, there is special weight and energy specific to M2O. Maybe it's the fact that racers start on one island (Molokai) and end 32 miles later on another (Oahu). Maybe it's the history of the event (Jamie Mitchell's 10 straight traditional paddleboard victories; Sonni Honscheid’s three in a row current reign from 2014-2016; Penelope Strickland’s dark horse win and record time last year). It might be the depth of talent the event draws (all the biggest names in open-ocean paddling from around the world and those who want to line up next to them).
Whatever it is, M2O has its own unique energy, or mana as the Hawaiians call it. And this Sunday morning, racers on SUPs, traditional paddleboards and foils will all line up to take on the "Channel of Bones" for the race's 22nd year. Here's why you should be excited.
The Foil Division
SUP foiling is in fashion with literally all of SUP's top athletes, enough so that the relatively traditional M2O staff could no longer deny them a foil class this year. Kai Lenny, Bernd Roediger, Maui's Spencer Brothers, and more will all be making history at this year's race. With this crew's recent performances across the channel between Maui and Molokai, including Lenny's 2:17 minute record setter, things could get crazy. Lenny told us that he thinks he could possibly do it under three hours if conditions are right.
"My goal is to do the channel as fast as I possibly can," Lenny said. "I want to set the record for fastest run across the channel on the same course, faster than any craft that doesn't have a motor or a sail, purely propelled by my own physical power.
The Sub-Four Hour SUP Race
Last year Australian-turned-Hawaii-resident Travis Grant did what only years before many thought was impossible: he broke the four-hour mark on an unlimited SUP, coming in at 3:59:52. He and Connor Baxter went tit-for-tat across the channel but Grant found another gear towards the end of the race inside Maunaluu Bay and pulled away for the victory and the record. With potentially good conditions this year and Baxter out for revenge, there's no telling what the world's best with pull off in 2018.
Things are looking good—asterisk. The trade wind machine has been turned on for over a week and it doesn't look to be letting up for Sunday's festivities. That said, the channel decides the race. While the trades will be blowing, squalls are frequent and can throw a wrench in what could be a perfect race. Sometimes being on the forefront of one can actually speed a racer up, while getting caught in the middle could knock down the wind and leave them bobbing like a message in a bottle. We won't know until the day, but it's looking good.
You Can Follow Along
Live tracking and social media have made this race much more fun to follow. Every racer and every relay team will have GPS trackers on. You can follow your favorite racers at Moloka2Oahu.com (just know that the trackers only update so often and that the trackers are often on the support boats that every racer/team is required to have so the position is relative).
We'll be paddling the channel on a three-man team this Sunday and you can look for Instagram Stories @SUPthemag following our journey. We'll also be posting winner updates to our feed and our Facebook page. And, as always, check out SUPthemag.com for in-depth coverage.
*John John Florence is racing.
Any surf fans out there? We know this one is a little niche, but everyone's favorite surfer has not been surfing on the World Surf League for several contests due to a knee injury. What's he been doing in his free time? Traditional downwind paddleboarding near his North Shore home. So he decided to join the fun, racing with buddy Kona Johnson. We're excited to see what the two-time world champ can do in the open ocean. Considering all his feats, we're guessing it will be impressive.
More Molokai 2 Oahu.