Aloha fellow paddlers and friends! As we are only one week away from the exciting Third Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a, I wanted to take a moment to introduce a lovely friend and athlete, who has journeyed all the way to Maui from Queensland, Australia, to experience what many are discovering to be the most exciting down wind SUP and ocean race in the world, Jenny Ryan.
I had the pleasure of doing a few training runs last year with her when she was here training for another event, and asked her to write about why this event, the Ho’olaule’a and why it meant so much to her. Her story is heartfelt and expresses her thoughts on how Maui and our community here has embraced her, as the ocean and land embraces everyone. She will inspire you and others to hopefully make the same journey to Maui!
Jenny writes: I can remember as kid I LOVED the beach! We lived so close and my mum would take me almost every day. I can remember playing in the ocean and getting tossed round by the waves never being scared. I can remember very vaguely, around the age of 4 having to go to the doctors. Something was wrong with my ears. Little did I know it spelled the end of my ocean love for a decade..
From the age of 4 to 13, I had several ear infections and grommets all was going okay until I was 7. One grommet came out early leaving a hole in my ear drum – and until it healed. I couldn’t dive, swim, etc. So I was always swimming with my head above the waves. I got to the age of 13 and was old enough to have a skin graph operation on my ear to close the hole. The operation was a success and for the first time in many years I was free to swim again. Until about 2 weeks later where I caught an unknown tropical ear infection. My ear would weep nonstop and this continued for about 12 months. Doctors, specialists, Ct scans, bone scans, referrals; no one knew what to do It wasn’t until my specialist suggested an old wife’s tale of Aluminum Acetate that it stopped in 3 days . I was 14 and had lost 70% of my hearing due to scar tissue, but I had the all cleared and within a month I picked up a surfboard.
I started surfing and loved it straight away and it was freedom. I could leave all my problems at the shore go for a surf.and somehow everything would be better.
I have been short boarding on and off for 10 years and gradually over time would see more and more SUPs. I was curious and a close friend was getting into it. He was telling me how awesome it was. Doubtful and curious I had to give it ago.
It was a 10ft Bonga Perkins. I lost count of the number of times I fell in. Persistence paid off and in a few months I was entering SUP surfs comps. Due to the small number of women entering these events..we were always up against the Men. We continued to enter the events and only recently have women surf sup has its own division in all the main surf contests. It’s great to know that in some way I’ve contributed to the progression of Women’s SUP in Australia alongside my fellow competitors/ friends. My proudest moment was placing 2nd in the first Women’s Australian SUP Title and this result enabled me to be sponsored by Laguna Bay Stand Up Paddle.
As SUP started exploding in oz races were starting to become more frequent. After a small fun race, Phil Gregory (aka Iron Phil) approached me – saying I was a weapon of a paddler and that I should really think about getting into racing. If it wasn’t for Phil that day i don’t know if I would be racing now. I started training with Phil for local races and started to build my confidence and strength.. it was during these training sessions I started to hear about how amazing the race scene is in Hawaii.. and about all the races, the people, and just the sup scene in general..
It was NYE 2010 when I decided that I was going to do the International Naish Race. I had only been training one month barely doing 10km and this race was 16km. I set myself a time of 1:40:00 and decided to go for it. Six months of solid training was my lead up and before long I was heading to Maui.
When I first got to Maui the first thing I noticed was the wind! I couldn’t believe how windy it was all the time. We hardly get over 15knots at home. This was something foreign. I did my first Maliko run. I couldn’t believe the runners. It was an amazing experience surfing the swell bumps, seeing turtles, and taking in the amazing coastline of Maui.
It was so inspiring and I was so excited to keep doing these runs. Race day came round so fast. I was nervous, and excited but enjoying every moment. It really started hitting me. This was it. Everything I had been training for was here and now! The prayers were said before we raced. This tradition is something I really admire. It gave me goose bumps. I felt instantly the energy at Maliko.
The race was amazing. I caught some of the most amazing runners of my life and hit my target time of 1:40:42. To say I was happy was an understatement! For me I learned that if you really put your mind to something you can make it happen. It was after this race that my whole belief system changed. I started to believe more in myself and wanted to come back to Hawaii again.
Continue reading Jenny Ryan Journeys to Maui to Experience the Magic of Maliko and the OluKai Ho’olaule’a