Fourth Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a May 12th & 13th, 2012
An amazing turnout of over 500 ocean enthusiasts and competitors from around the globe converged on the beautiful island of Maui this weekend May 12th & 13th, 2012 to celebrate OluKai Premium Footwear’s highly revered fourth annual downwind SUP and OC1 race, called the Ho’olau’le’a which translates as “celebration.” The community and visitors came together in the spirit of “ohana” to share, give, and celebrate the ocean.
This highly anticipated event brought beginners, novice and elite ocean athletes together to experience the famed 8 mile stretch of open ocean paddling known as the Maliko downwind run. This stretch of water is fast and offers a unique perspective of racing and spectacular views of Maui’s North shore.
(Full Results link & fabulous photos below)
Part of the proceeds raised benefit the OluKai ‘Ohana Giveback Program; beneficiaries include Maui Cultural Lands and Hawaii’s Junior Lifeguard Program. Click here to learn more about the OluKai Ohana Giveback Program.
A special pre race event offered to those who weren’t quite ready for the 8 mile race, was the non-competitive Fun Paddle Division that was as popular as ever, held prior to the main SUP event. The three mile course from Paia Bay to Kanaha Beach Park gave a taste of the big course to those who aspire to one day advance to Maliko. I had the pleasure of preparing this group with a practice paddle a couple weeks before to get those a little anxious, relaxed and ready. ( see photos and highlights here ). The Fun Paddle Division allows any age, all levels and anything humanly paddle powered.
The OluKai Team greeted and checked everyone in at the Paia Youth & Cultural Center where the paddle began. Music played in the courtyard, safety skis arrived, boards were everywhere and there some nervous jitters as well. After the safety meeting, I lead the group with a few warm-up exercises as 80 paddlers prepared for their downwind experience. We had participants that traveled from Delaware, Oregon and as far away as Australia just for this fun paddle.
As the blow horn sounded, and to everyone’s surprise, a low flying yellow helicopter appeared sweeping the beach and exciting everyone as they hovered for photos. With a small shore break to navigate over, everyone safely and successfully paddled off. Also joining was the beautiful OluKai Team racing canoe, Kamakani Eleu offering it’s own adventure for a few lucky participants.
Just 3.2 miles up the coast at Maliko Gulch, the premiere downwind staging area above Ho’okipa Park, 300 stand up paddlers readied themselves for the 12:00pm start.
The OluKai Team was well prepared as racers signed in, picked up race shirts, and timing chips. It was a field of yellow race shirts, supported by family and friends. Twenty minutes before the noon start time, paddlers gathered for the safety meeting and pule, (Hawaiian prayer).
After the pule circle commenced, racers entered the gulch to the traditional start which began a short distance outside the gulch. Flanked by jet skis and a start boat, paddlers strategically positioned themselves. When the green flag dropped, a light breeze finally came and they were off.
Winds which typically average 25-30 mph were exceptionally light at 10-15 mph, which meant many trained for flat-water paddling would dominate.
Off the board and first in and after a 300 yard (not my favorite part! ) beach sprint, local international SUP Conner Baxter took the win with a time of 47:27. The women’s elite was four-time winner Andrea Moller ( also from Maui ) with another impressive time of 56:44. Full Stand Up Paddle Results: click here
Also recognized were different board and age divisions. Everyone who entered finished and was rewarded with a delicious luau with poi, sweet potatoes, kalua pig and live entertainment. Additionally, anyone who wished could experience canoe sailing and other Hawaiian games.
Colorful and festive Hawaiian dancers performed various traditional hulas and encouraged members of the audience to participate. This was a crowd pleaser and very entertaining!
In grand OluKai style, the yellow helicopter returned to shower the crowd with thousands of plumeria flowers. Everyone cheered and applauded as the fragrant purple petals blanketed the event.
The afternoon was lively as competitors relaxed with friends and family. And since the OC1 race was held the day after, everyone who registered was invited to come down and enjoy the food and festivities.
Sunday’s OC1 race also began in Maliko Gulch. With unusually light trades, similar to the SUP event, this race required intense paddling. Some who competed in the SUP event also participated in this event.
The 130 OC1 paddlers were as well flanked by support crews and family. Beautifully bright colored canoes covered the small beach and grass areas.
The special pule like the day before, blessed the paddlers for a safe run. The circle broke apart as some entered the bay via the rocks while others chose the boat ramp for their launch. The bluffs and cliffs were lined with spectators ready for the heart pounding start.
Green flag go! Keeping a safe distance is always tricky at first with a start like this as the boats began to spread out and plane quickly across the water down the coast.
First in was Danny Ching who also placed within the elite SUP event. His time was 49:20. Rachel Brunstch had a great finish and time of 57:25 as she came in with a huge smile winning the women’s elite. Full OC1 Race Results click here.
The event was a huge success, but didn’t end here. As some of the event proceeds go to the Maui Cultural Lands, on Monday myself and the OluKai crew headed deep into the lush, ancient Honokawai Valley in Kaanapali to work the land, plant new trees and learn how to respect the sacred ways of the past and appreciate them today. This is a special area dedicated in preserving the past and to help future generations secure and balance the land today.
Take a deep breath, take in the beauty of the ocean and land that surrounds you and walk the planet with a light foot.
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