Friday, 19 May 2006 22:42 | Written by  Joe Glickman
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ImageOn Thursday, May 18, three days before the 32-mile (55km) surf ski and one-man canoe race from Kaluako'I Beach, Molokai to Koko Marina on Oahu, paddlers gathered at the Kona Brewing Company for the 30th edition of the race considered the world surf ski championship


Back to defend his title is 11-time champ Oscar Chalupsky, who first won here in 1983 at the age of 20. Dean Gardiner, the nine-time Molo winner, is also back looking to notch his elusive 10th win. Pushing the pace up front will be the 1992 Olympic gold medallist Clint Robinson, the 34-year-old Aussie who teamed with Nathan Baggaley at the 2004 Games in Athens to win a silver medal in the K21000.


2005 Molokai start (Photo: Epic Kayaks)


Gardiner, Chalupsky and Robinson last raced across the channel in 2003 in what many consider the most competitive Molo field ever assembled. In that race, which featured Chalupsky and Gardiner's quest to be the first 10-time champion, Robinson and Gardiner led virtually the entire race (with Herman and Oscar Chalupsky third and forth).


Along the famed cliffs of Portlock, Oscar Chalupsky caught and eventually passed Robinson and then Gardiner for the win. Three years later, they'll do it again.


Noticeably absent this year are 2004 champ Herman Chalupsky and Nathan Baggaley, who last year predicted he'd not only win but set a course record. "Bags" went ballistic off the line and led for most of the race before the old bull named Oscar chased him down for his 11th win in 13 attempts.


The other top contenders who have a legitimate chance to make the podium are 21-year-old Durbanite Clint Pretorius, third in the World Cup in Perth in 2005, Lewis Laughlin of Tahiti, and Damian Daley from Oz.


Rounding out the top dozen are Kiwi Paul Wilford, Taku Araki from Japan, Ken Collins from Durban, and the top three ski paddlers in Hawaii, Mark Sandvold, Stuart Gaessner, and Steve Kelly. Conditions are predicted to be ideal: with winds out of the NE at 20 knots and a six to nine foot swell.


Joe Glickman

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