Aussie athletes chase Molokai challenge

By Laura-Leith Pettigrew

A record number of Australian athletes are set to travel to Hawaii in July to contest in the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard World Championships.

The 52km open water race has seen a 40 per cent increase in Australian solo competitors since 2013.

Molokai to Oahu Race coordinator Mike Takahashi said Australia’s surf culture was a big influence on the increasing number of Aussie competitors.

“The popularity of the race with Australians has a lot to do with the unique water sports culture in Australia,” Mr Takahashi said.

“The lifesaving clubs in particular foster the perfect athletes for the race.”

Mr Takahashi said the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing the race was addictive.

“Completing the wild and extreme course, coupled with the dark blue water gives such a sense of pride that it becomes almost an addiction,” Mr Takahashi said.

Six-time Molokai to Oahu competitor Lachie Lansdown said the event was more than just a race.

“It’s so special because you are out in the open and exposed to all the elements,” Lansdown said.

“The water colour makes you feel like you’re on another planet it’s so blue.”

Lansdown said athletes were forced to travel as Australia has nothing like it.

“At the moment I don’t think there’s any other events like this in Australia so to do something with this amount or prestige and respect you need to leave the country,” he said.

The race’s individuality is continuing to attract more and more athletes.

First-time paddler Grace Rosato said the event was “a massive bucket list achievement”.

“As a young girl I have watched idols race this race I’ve seen the effort and training put into this challenge and it’s a race like no other,” Rosato said.

“I want to feel the passion and be a part of all the action this year not just follow dots on a screen here in Australia.”

Mr Takahashi said respected athletes like Jamie Mitchell and Jordan Mercer have also played a part in the events growth.

“I credit people like Jamie and Jordan for inspiring so many people to do the race,” Mr Takahashi said.

“They, have shown the world how hard you have to train to do the race.

“It is partially talent, but, also a lot of hard work.”

Jordan Mercer is inspiring Australian paddles to head to Molokai. Photo: Shane Myers

Mr Takahashi said “had no idea it would ever become so popular”.

“The race started with just over 30 participants, and has grown almost every year since the start in 1997,” he said.

The event is described as the “Everest of paddling” and is very dangerous and has safety requirements that limit its growth.

“Unfortunately we have to limit the participants due to safety concerns, but, I think the race could keep growing if not for the cap on entries,” Mr Takahashi said.

“The quest to test your mental and physical limits is getting much more popular now.”

Molokai is the perfect event to do just that, with the race spanning from the island of Molokai to Oahu, a crossing known as the channel of bones.

The race is no easy feat, not only being a mentally and physically tough experience, but also an expensive one.

Competitors have multiple expenses:

  • Entries: $300
  • Boat crew: $1200
  • Equipment and equipment transport: $1500
  • Travel/accommodation expenses: $2700

For international competitors like Australians, the cost of flights makes the event even more expensive with the venture costing in-between $10-12,000.

The 23rd Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard World Championships will take place on July 28.

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