More growth seen in Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP). Former Ironman World Champion, Greg Welch, returns to endurance competition on SUP team.
On Sunday, July 31, 2011, the historic Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championship(M2O), presented by Kona Brewing Co., will begin its 15th annual race with the largest field of competitors in its history. The event sold out in record time with a 20 percent increase in participation. Athletes representing 15 countries will attempt to successfully cross the 32-mile Ka’iwi Channel, also referred to as the Molokai Channel – the fastest vying for the most prestigious title in the sport of paddleboarding.
“We are looking forward to hosting the international field of competitors in Hawaii,” said Rob Farrow, director of operations for the M2O Group. “The increase in participation and the speed in which the race sold out is a positive sign of the health of the sport. We have over 250 participants representing 15 countries who have made a substantial commitment to compete in this race. Similar to the Ironman World Championships or the Triple Crown of Surfing, this event is an outstanding representation of some of the world’s best athletes who come to Hawaii to compete at the highest level of sport.”
M2O and its competitors exemplify the evolution paddleboarding from an obscure sport created by lifeguards and surfers from Hawaii and Southern California in the 1930’s, to a global phenomenon 80 years later. In addition to elite watermen and women, M2O also attracts adventure racers and endurance athletes who are looking for new outlets to train and test their physical abilities.
“The M2O race is the undisputed world championship of paddleboarding,” said Brad Gerlach, a 2010 competitor, former ASP world champion surfer, big wave pioneer and waterman. “You know you are about to attempt something special when you are on Kaluakoi Beach during the pre-race Pule’ (blessing), standing hand-in-hand with hundreds of athletes from around the world. Then you think about the legends that have crossed these waters – nothing compares to the Molokai race.”
For years the race was dominated by prone paddleboarders, but stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has an equal share in the annual event. Drawing the best athletes in both disciplines, the Molokai Channel is regarded as the greatest accomplishment in the sport, and, as such, the most fitting venue to crown a world champion.
The recent resurgence of paddleboarding began in the early part of the last decade with the introduction of the sport of SUP. Since then, SUP has become the fastest growing segment of the multi-billion dollar surf industry. The sport’s popularity has inspired the surf culture along coastlines, on rivers and lakes around the world. The influence of SUP and an athlete’s drive to compete is reflected in the record number of international SUP competitors making the trek to Hawaii to cross the Ka’iwi Channel this year.
One of the new breed of paddlers taking on the challenge is former Ironman Triathlon World Champion, Greg Welch.
“In paddling, this is ‘the race’,” said Welch, who will be taking on the channel for the first time this year as part of a SUP team. “I’ve been waiting, watching and training, I hope this will be the first of many Molokai crossings. I haven’t been this fired up for a race since my peak triathlon days.”
While paddleboarding may seem like an individual sport on the water, there is a team effort behind each athlete to assist in a successful crossing. Many teams are composed of family and friends who help coordinate logistics, hire local captains for escort boats, book travel and ship 18-foot paddleboards across the globe to Hawaii. This team aspect drives the feeling of camaraderie that can be felt during race week as athletes and their supporters gather in hotels, stores, restaurants around the start and finish lines to share stories and experiences before and after the race.
As teams converge on Oahu and Molokai it is estimated they will contribute over $3 million to the local economy and their efforts will generate over $50,000 for charity though the event’s 32::32 program and personal efforts made by a number of athletes crossing the channel for their designated cause.
ABOUT THE MOLOKAI-2-OAHU PADDLEBOARD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Celebrating its 15th anniversary on Sunday, July 31, 2011, the Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championships, presented by Kona Brewing Co. is recognized as one of the world’s most challenging tests for endurance and courage. Covering 32 miles of open-ocean, over 250 competitors will cross the Ka’iwi (kah-EE-vee) Channel, from the North Shore of Molokai to the South Shore of Oahu, under their own power on prone paddleboards or stand-up paddleboards (SUP). The fastest athletes complete the crossing in just under five hours, facing treacherous currents, powerful swells and a depth of nearly one kilometer. Paddlers can ride swells for 100s of yards.
Competitors can choose to race as a solo paddler or as part of a team in either the unlimited class (no size limit and with a movable rudder system) or stock class (12 feet or under for paddleboard, 14 foot or under in SUP with fixed rudder).
The organizers and athletes of the Molokai-2-Oahu Paddleboard World Championship thank the valued partners for making the annual race possible. Partners include (alphabetically): Dukes, Garmin, Hotel Renew, Kona Brewing Co., Maui Jim, Patagonia, Rogue, Sambazon, Scott Hawaii, Standup Paddle Magazine, Wahoos and Waterman’s Sunscreen.