The week leading up to the Pa'a Hawaii 2018 Molokai Solo was full of wonder. Wonder what the wind will do, the wonder of who will be the top competitors from near and far, and wondering how my day will go and if I did enough preparation to make it through.
The wind forecast the week leading up to the race was all over the place. Early forecast showed great trade winds then as the week rolled on the winds disappeared then looked to be from the South. Most of us were praying for a stroke of better luck and a handful of us were wondering if Will Reichenstein had to go sacrifice a goat to the Gods or something (Will had done 7 Molokai Solos and all were flat). Luckily someone else sacrificed the goat for Will or did something right because the wind pulled through in the end and showed up for race day. We received a 10-17knt NNE breeze. This created some technical surfing in the Kaiwi channel with some fun tricky angles, but surfing it was.
This years field of competitors was one of the biggest we've seen in years.
We had paddlers from Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, California, Japan, Russia, and Hawaii. It's no question that the Tahitians were going to be at the lead of the pack, but in years past there seems to always be a competitive Australian or New Zealand paddler mixed in the lead group along with the local standouts. Kevin Ceran-Jerusalemy and Steeve Teihotaata from Tahiti came to do business this year. They had a good battle across the Kaiwi and had a good lead on the rest of the pack. Kevin pulled away in the end and took the victory. This was Kevin's first Molokai Solo win and I'm sure there will be more to come, we are very proud and stoked for him.
My preparation this year was similar to last year. One difference was I did try to incorporate some cross training which I didn't do last year. I feel this helped me at times this season especially with some of the injuries I held onto for the past couple of seasons. My paddling program for the last two years was designed by Mick Di Betta at www.justpaddling.com and it seems to really get me on point at the right time. With my preparation I tend worry about the always asked question, did I do enough? I feel you never know until the day of the big race. Looking at the wind and tide I figured out my course with making a point to stick to it no matter where other competitors go. Luckily for me a handful of the top guys were on the same page so we had a good group to push with.
I did my best to pace myself in the beginning, and it seemed to pay off well at the one hour mark. At this point I began to make a move and was able to maintain that for another hour or so. At about 2:45 into the race my stomach began to knot up and it seemed to hinder my efforts some but I kept trying to push through it (for three days leading up to the race I was having some stomach issues and wasn't able to hold much down but felt fine for the most part just a lot of sitting on the toilet). When we hit the 3:30 mark there was no letting up. The guys to the south of us looked like they were ahead a bit but I had more options so I needed to take advantage of that and make sure I kept on my surfing and connecting. The last 45 minutes of the race was intense with no letting up and all the sacrifice to stay high on the course was finally paying off.
In the past couple years coming into China Wall I haven't had good fortune with waves, this year on the other hand I seemed to have cashed in my chips. I was able to get nice wave at China Wall and then a couple more on the inside to secure my position in those last moments of the race. With those years of misfortune coming in the bay I told myself not to let it happen again. A bit of luck and a bit of determination was in my deck of cards this year. I pushed hard all the way to the end knowing that there was a group of hungry paddlers somewhere within striking distance especially if a wave came their way. As I crossed the finish line I thought that I had finished a solid fourth due to the three escort boats sitting there and I was stoked with that, but when I saw just Kevin and Steeve sitting there I asked "who else has come in already?" They looked at me kind of funny and said "no one, just you". Third, Wow! I let out a cheer of shock. At my age of two months shy of 43 I could only dream of being this competitive I thought.
Blessed for sure but it comes with a great support network starting at home with my wife and my friends on Maui going out and pushing through the workouts with me. Thank you to my wife, Kealani Bartlett and good friends Kekoa Cramer, Dane Dudoit, Chef Isaac Bancaco, Triston Santos, Kevin Dudoit, Felipe Gomes, and some of the Surfski guys for keeping the push all season.