Loch Eggers is a veteran in the Maui paddling scene. He's an island native who's been standup paddling the famed Maliko run--the course for the prestigious OluKai Ho'olaule'a, May 1--since the inception of SUP racing. But despite being among Maui's most experienced downwind paddlers, Loch's not a racer, which affords him the liberty of sharing his perspective on the upcoming OluKai race and its paddlers. Given Loch's local knowledge, that perspective is gold in the race community. Here it is on a silver platter.
SUP: What's going to be the most challenging aspect of the downwind race this year?
LE: Well, for the first time, the race is going to be a little different. They're changing the course. The racers can't go inside of the lagoon by the airport anymore. They have to go up and around, turn a buoy at upper Kanaha, and then come in sideways against the wind for a while. That could definitely change something at the end of the race. Some people may get out-paddled more than out-surfed. It adds a tricky variable.
If you were competing, what would be one thing you'd look out for?
Mystery peaks. What's interesting about this buoy change is that now it's going to draw people a ways outside the airport, and if there's any kind of swell or a cross swell coming down, there could be some serious carnage out there. I paddled that area with my brother two weeks ago when a northeasterly swell was running, and at one point I looked back just in time to see a 12-foot wave (6-foot Hawaiian) come crashing down right behind us. I was only a few strokes onto the shoulder...it barely missed us. There are some huge ocean mines out there (laughs). I'd watch out for those.
What's the secret to having an advantage in this race?
It's not really a secret. The guys who stick around here on Maui and do the coast runs all the time have more of an edge than the guys who’re traveling, and who aren't here a lot. The Jeremy Riggs and Kalama types who are doing the coast runs every week are more in-tune on what's going on out there. They're doing the race track every day, which definitely gives them the upper hand for OluKai.
What do you hope will happen differently this year?
I just want to see wind. We've been so skunked the past couple years with moderate to no wind races that it's kind of a bummer for the guys out there. But we've had great wind the past few days, so I'm optimistic.
What advice do you have?
Look out for mystery peaks outside the airport and maybe tiger sharks (laughs). Wear a strong leash so if you do get smoked by the wave at the airport your leash won't break and you won't have to panic about it if there's tiger sharks around like I always do.
Who will be the stiffest competition on the men's side?
Wow, that's a tough question. There are so many variables. It really depends on conditions. Guys like Connor Baxter and Dave Kalama are always at the front of the pack, and along with them you have Jeremy Riggs (a local who paddles this stretch every day), Kody Kerbox, Danny Ching, Livio Menelau and Travis Baptiste. There are so many good guys over here; it's a toss up between about ten guys. But I'm pulling for the older guys--the senior citizens of standup paddling (laughs).
Who will be the stiffest competition on the women's side?
Off the top of my head, of course you have Andrea Moller, Sonni Honscheid and Devin Blish--all those girls are super strong and fierce competitors. And then there's Kathy Shipman. Kathy is an incredible paddler. She's in her mid-50s and she's right up there with all those girls. I paddle with those girls a lot, and I end up having to paddle extra hard just to try to get a little ahead. They're right there with the top guys. It's not like the top guys are leaving the girls in the dust. These wahines are fast.
Who is your wildcard pick?
You have wildcards that come out from the OC1 side that are pretty serious contenders. Kai Bartlett for example, won the race one year and he'd only been on a standup board twice. He fell off two or three times, and he didn't even have a leash, he had to swim to his board, and he still beat Livio by two minutes to the beach. That's how strong Kai Bartlett is. But we'll see. Again, there are a ton of variables, which is what makes the OluKai such an awesome race.