Update from Hawaii

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[Editor: Steve Woods has been in Hawaii for a couple of weeks now and sent this update through to us - apologies for taking so long to post it!  Blame the delay on the long flights and the extreme effect of the 12 hour jetlag!]

Steve Woods, Hawaii 2008
Steve Woods, Hawaii 2008

So where do I begin....arrived last week and it's literally been a whirlwind trip through paradise! Ian picked me up from the airport with Carter Johnson from California and Zsolt who has just moved out here. They looked super relaxed and said i'd get into the swing of things pretty soon. I was overboard keen to get into the water after the longest flight of my life!! The locals here are all super friendly and have helped us out so we've been pretty sorted with places to stay etc. We're staying in a condo on the water's edge so things are rather peachy at the moment!!

 Friday morning- we loaded Mark Sandfold's trailer with skis and headed for the Super Ferry that took us all out to Maui. The ferry crosses the same channel that the Molokai race is on. It was quite scary to see how dead flat it was 2 days before we were going to paddle it. Ian and I had already set our sights on paddling with the OC1 guys the day after the Maui to Molokai race, just to see the line the top guys were taking. Zsolt kept on reminding us how painful it would be if the wind didn't blow, reminiscent of last year's race.

On Maui we stopped off in Lahaina, a beautiful little town on the water's edge where palm trees drape into the water and long-boarders sit waiting for little waves that crumble in on the outer reef where a yacht lies stranded. It's the type of place you go to for a week and end up staying for a year! Like true travellers we all packed ourselves into a room  at Kaanapaila, a classic spot on the beach where we did some prerace training.

Race: Maui to Molokai  (small swell with +-10knots wind-at the most, hot as hell)

There were mostly OCs on the line with few of us on surfskis. It was a water start much the same as Stella dice where everyone just keeps on paddling and the starter is forced to sound the hooter.  Ian, Zsolt and I took off at an average pace surfing the side on swell. Ian had got GPS points from Carter so we were relying on his GPS to lead us to the finish. It was the blind leading the blind since none of us had ever done the run. We approached Molokai far north in an attempt to stay out the "current", which we heard was supposed to be working in those conditions.

My GPS reading went to 11km/hr and soon enough we were slogging away in a foot of water over the reef that ran out for miles. I even started paddling like a crab to stop my rudder from hitting the reef. I think we all had stints of laughter at each other as we attempted to hovercraft over the reef. It was an uphill battle for about 5km's and I could feel the heat factor starting to kick in. Ian and I got away from Zsolt at one stage when Zsolt got caught on the inside and had to paddle further to the channel. At this stage there was no help and Ian was feeling strong and just pulled away from me. Zsolt began to come back at us on the inside where there was a channel of deeper water for a km or 2. I was getting seriously over paddling uphill in shallow water and decided to head out into the channel. Immediately my GPS picked up to 16km/hr. After catching some good runs I felt rejuvenated and started to get some rhythm going. I caught up to 2 other surfski paddlers who had taken the right line and looked to be enjoying themselves. Zsolt had noticed that I went outside and followed. With 5km's to go I passed the leading OC1 paddler and Ian on the inside and was pretty relieved to be on the right line. I managed to hold off Zsolt and Ian who came in a few seconds behind.

On Molokai:

What an insane spot, unbelievably beautiful. All you ever here about is the race but the actual location is incredible.

OC World champs next day:

We were a bit stiff from the day before but really relieved when the wind started to puff at 7am. Ian and I started behind the OC's and tapped along for the first 30min. The first thing that was really different was trying to ride runs and boat waves all at the same time. There were just boats everywhere and it's really difficult to get some rhythm going when all the escort boats are trying to shield their paddlers from other escort boat waves.

The runs were classic, linking up nicely for about 2hrs. We put the hammer down to catch up to the lead bunch who were really going well. I sat behind a guy named Danny Chang that was in 3rd place, he made very few mistakes in the runs. It was great to see the different lines of the guys up ahead. I still can't believe how good these guys are in the runs on their outriggers. 2km off China walls the water gets really disorganized and you really have to concentrate. You can see why guys like Oscar do well there.

Toward the end of the wall I was about 20m behind Danny and on the same line when a big swell popped up and I started riding it. I had ridden swells along the wall 3 days before and was comfortable with where I was, what I didn't know was that at low tide the sets come into the wall right at end of the wave. At the end of the wave I started hitting hard left to try get away from the wall, unfortunately my tail slid out and smashed onto the rocks. Blind!! Luckily a camera crew was there on a boat and gave me lift in. It was a good lesson to be learnt and now I definitely know to stay clear of the rocks!!! All in all an awesome outing and a record setting paddle for Karel a local paddler with some serious skills in the runs.


Published in Pacific

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