By Jenny Kalmbach, 2009 Women’s SUP Champion

If you know Jenny, you know she is a great ambassador for the sport of paddleboarding. She’s crossed the Molokai Channel numerous times and has good advice for all paddlers with a sprinkling of a good sense of humor.

  1. Don’t show up to Molokai empty handed – If you’re planning on staying a few nights on Molokai before the race, bring your food essentials. There aren’t a lot of shopping options, especially near the race start. So, think about what you want for breakfast, lunch dinner and make sure you bring whatever food you want for race day sealed in a dry bag and available on your escort boat.
  2. Set a plan with your boat captain – The morning of the race is CRAZY. It can be tricky finding your captain and paddling your gear out. You will want to keep your stress levels as low as possible that morning so make sure you HAVE A PLAN. Talk to your boat captain ahead of time about where to meet, what his boat looks like etc. If possible, meet up with him the day before the race to drop off some gear or talk about your race plan (course, nutrition drops etc). 
  3. Got navigation? – This race can be won or lost by the choice of your line. I have been on both sides of this, so don’t just wing it. Talk to your boat captain, ask friends who have done the channel before, look at tide and current charts … use as much information as you can to choose the line you think will be the best to get you from Molokai to Oahu.
  4. Stay dedicated to your plan – Once you have picked your course, stick to it. This is important. It’s tempting when you’re out there to want to change things up, but you have a plan for a reason, so don’t mess with it. It’s ok to make slight variations on your course due to conditions, but don’t suddenly shoot change direction because you think it might be faster.
  5. Pack light & Keep it dry – Pack light and use a waterproof or dry bag. Whatever you have with you on the beach will have to be paddled out to your boat … and sometimes there is shore break … so keep it light. I like the Dakine Crew Duffle or the Grunden Gage Rum Runner Backpack.
  6. Get your support team up to speed – Talk to your team about the big and little things. How often will you need to change your hydration pack? What nutrition is going in it? Do they know how much? Are they going to throw it to you or is someone jumping in the water to hand it off? Do you want them to cheer you on or do you prefer silence? Do you want to know where you’re at and how far you have to go or will you keep track of that yourself? What about your competition? Do you want them to tell you where you stand? These might seem like little things, but once the race starts, you’re not going to have a chance to talk to them and explain things – so think about ALL of this before the start horn blows … one less thing to worry about when you’re in the middle of the Molokai Channel.
  7. Shield yourself from the sun – Wear sunscreen and sun protective clothing. It’s a long, hot day out there, so don’t let the elements get the best of you. I wear long compression tights (2XU elite compression tights) and I slather on as much sunscreen as I can (Coola Sport 45). Don’t forget a hat (avoid dark colors) and polarized sunglasses are essential (Oakley Radarlock Edge).
  8. Don’t forget your tunes – It’s just you, the open swells, some birds and malolo (flying fish) out there, so having music can really help some paddlers. Create a playlist of your favorite songs and make sure you have enough songs for the day.
  9. Beauty tip for women and men with long hair – This may not affect your time or experience across the channel, but I promise you will be happier because of it after your race. Your arms are going to be tired after all that paddling, and brushing out the knots in your hair is not fun. So, for the girls out there, or guys with long hair, I’d recommend putting it up in a bun or a bubble ponytail. Trust me when I say it will take hours and a bottle of conditioner to remove the knots if you choose to braid your hair or put it in a simple ponytail.
  10. The reason we are all out there – Most importantly, enjoy the experience and HAVE FUN! Don’t get frustrated, if you fall just laugh it off and get back up … keep paddling and keep smiling.