THE 5TH ANNUAL OLUKAI HO’OLAULE’A
“FUN PADDLE DIVISION”
May 11, 2013 Maui, Hawaii
My mind is full of images of bright smiles and of steely strength of those who bravely earned their badges of courage this past Saturday, during the first event of the weekend long ocean celebration, the 5th Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a. This entire event is truly a global event with competitors from over 10 countries, and 44 attendees from 15 mainland states. (FULL IMAGE GALLERY BELOW)
The Fun Paddle Division is our special group of water sports enthusiasts of all ages, who come with extreme enthusiasm to paddle in or on any watercraft that is humanly powered. There were loads of stand up paddleboards, a few kayaks, outrigger canoes and the incredible OluKai
sailing canoe. For many it was their first “downwind” experience and for others this was the starting ground to start their training for the infamous 8 mile Maliko open ocean course for the following year.
The Paia Youth & Cultural Center has been our gathering place for three years since this division began. They graciously host and welcome our eager paddlers from our local community and visitors from afar. The course is 3 miles and begins in Paia Bay and ends at the Kanaha Beach Park lifeguard tower.
One could see that something very special was about to begin, as the OluKai flags were flying high, and those helping under the OluKai tents were busy greeting and checking in the paddlers. This year the paddlers received official yellow OluKai jerseys that made everyone look like real racers! They were stoked.
Maui’s beauty shows in many ways, but this weekend was met with imperfect beauty as a two day rain storm and big swells, swayed and rolled the coastline with light winds that offered more challenging conditions than normal for many of our new water warriors.
Water safety was key as it always is for this event as our safety jet skis were throttling in position and our volunteer lifeguards and elite waterman were getting ready to assist the participants on the beach and into the water.
As everyone was asked to gather in the courtyard our special musical guest Mishka sang and played acoustic guitar. This was just a sample of the fabulous line up of musical talent that awaited everyone at the big backyard style BBQ that afternoon. Performers included Hawaii’s top contemporary musicians: Anuhea, Paula Fuga, Kimie Minor, Mishka, Justin Young, and Ekolu Kalama.
Next up, Matthew Murasko, OluKai’s Hawaii Ambassador reviewed the course map and highlighted the safety points and measures to keep everyone safe.
Then my favorite part of the morning was my pre paddle warm up! It’s my job and pleasure to build everyone’s confidence, pump them up and make them feel empowered and strong from the beginning to finish! I gave out lots of hugs and held hands with a few in the courtyard and at the beach to reassure them and answer any last minute questions. I shared a few paddling tips on how to manage the big surf and swell. I also had a few fun moves up my sleeve to lessen the nervous jitters and to get everyone’s blood pumping and make them laugh.
With Madelyn as my lovely assistant, the kids lined the front row ready to show their moves and make some noise. I’m not sure what people thought was coming, as we started with a few light active stretches. Then I poured on the heat and expectations.
I promised everyone would be required to drop down and give me 20 pushups if I didn’t think they were loud enough and boy that’s all it took! Hands behind the head, knees bent, elbows flat as I ordered 10 squats and everyone had to count with me out loud, very loud. I wanted to inflate their lung capacity right here and now!
I went easy on them this year, as then it was time for the gun show. I asked the participants to roll up their jersey sleeves. I wanted to see their guns! (biceps for those of you who may be confused) Then as I demonstrated with my own rifles, I gave each of them a kiss right to left and asked they did the same. They loved it and laughed out loud. Some had some cannons!
Now they were getting loose and fired up! Then, the grand finale before we sent them off, my famous warrior move. I’m not sure how I got this one started, but it’s a good one and my tradition. To assume a great warrior’s stance, we stood with feet apart, toes pointed outward, and into a squat position. With our chests out, arms up with elbows bent, I instructed that for every hop turn into our warrior pose we’d roar with a deep, big chant “hau”. This word translates to a mythical Polynesian wind god, which was very appropriate for our downwind paddlers.
Again and again we’d turn left, forward and right, land our feet hard to the earth, arms up, chest out and bellow out our warrior chant, until I felt it was time. Wow, they were really revved! Everyone departed the courtyard and headed to the beach.
The helicopter appeared and flew over the crowd as it always does before the start. Everyone was throwing shakas and waiving to the camera crew, as they prepared to launch. This was it.
The board caddies, friends and families of our paddlers helped with paddles, leashes and last minutes hugs. It was an awesome sight and a sea of yellow jerseys.
The fastest paddler would make it in in thirty minutes, others a bit more. The skies were grey but their spirits charged. They were digging in just like I instructed and they did not stop. I was so very proud and excited to see the looks of determination, tenacity and strength as they paddled up and over some pretty good size surf and swell. I’m not sure some even realized what they had just accomplished.
As a SUP coach and trainer I’m able to help some of these paddlers all throughout the year prior to the event. By emails and phone calls and even SKYPE training sessions, I often have people writing me with questions to determine if they are ready for the Fun Paddle Divisionor if they have what it takes yet to paddle out of Maliko. It’s so rewarding to see those that graduate up to the 8 mile event, like Eddie and Judy Shasek from Bend, OR. pictured below preparing their water packs before the 8 mile race.
Eddie and Judy came to Maui last year for the Fun Paddle and came back to Maui a few months after to specifically prepare for Maliko. The waves were too big but they made the best of it and enjoyed practicing on longer racing boards to get the feel and caught a few smaller waves on the West side. They even began writing about their preparation for their journey and wanted to share how they were training and cross training back home. Click here to read their story and see photos. Congrats to you both on an excellent finish!
Everyone deserves great recognition for completing the Fun Paddle. These water warriors earned their stripes that day and displayed their big badges of courage. For some this was the beginning of their right of passage up to the event at Maliko next year.
To recap the entire event, the more serious divisions were competing for equal gender prize money of $15,000, SUP and OC1/OC2 (outrigger canoe 1 man/outrigger canoe 2 man). Some of the competitors traveled from 10 countries and throughout the U.S. to compete in the Maliko Downwind run, one of the largest SUP races in the world, which spans 8 miles of infamous open ocean.
The top 3 winners in men’s SUP included Connor Baxter taking 1st place and Dave Kalama and Kai Lenny taking 2nd and 3rd respectively. Taking 1st place in women’s SUP was Andrea Moller, followed by Talia Gangini in 2nd and Devin Blish in 3rd.
In men’s OC1/OC2, Kai Bartlett finished 1st, Manny Kulukulualani 2nd, and the team of Dave Kalama and Junya McGurn finished 3rd. The top 3 in the women’s OC1/OC2 race were Lauren Spalding in 1st, Andrea Moller in 2nd and Dane Ward in 3rd. For more information and full results of the SUP race, go to http://live.pseresults.com/e/27#/. For more information on the OC1/OC2 races, go to http://live.pseresults.com/e/28#/.
And continuing with its hands-on approach to giving back, OluKai employees who qualified for travel to Ho’olaule’a by contributing a minimum of 20 hours of local service leading up to the event, wrapped up the weekend at the Maui Cultural Lands Giveback Day. Local volunteers and OluKai staff traveled to Honokowai Valley, a cultural heritage preservation site to contribute efforts towards reforestation and archeological stabilization projects.
In closing, Kerry Konrady, Director of OluKai Marketing shared:
“Each year we are inspired by the Ho’olaule’a and how it brings together such incredible people for two days of celebrating Hawaiian culture. From elite paddlers and competitors, world class musicians, volunteers from around the community, our retail partners, to locals and visitors looking to share Aloha, the event has become truly one of the world’s elite paddling and cultural festivals. We thank everyone who has supported the effort.”
We invite you, your friends and family to come next year and take part in history in the making. Come share and spread the Aloha with our Ohana and yours.
SPECIAL NOTE: Tune into to Ocean Paddler TV: The OluKai Ho’olaule’a will start to air on ocean paddler tv on the Time Warner network channel 12 and 1012 Tuesday June 4th @8pm in Hawaii, and will air the entire month of June pretty much everyday! Mainland folks can watch on the NBC Universal Sports Network on Direct and Dish TV (check local listings for days and times)
Photos: Tracy Kraft Leboe
A shout out to Kelly Moore of MooreWatertime who provided shuttle transportation services for all three events! Ride in style and comfort, save time.