WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PADDLEBOARD RACE TO “WALK ON WATER”
This year’s QuikSilverEdition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard race will include a major division for stand-up paddling for the first time in the event’s 11-year history. When the inaugural QuikSilverEdition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race was held in 1997, no one imagined that the prone paddle would evolve to “walking on water”.
The Aussie gods of paddling – Mick Dibetta, Aaron Bitmead, and five-time champion Jamie Mitchell have dominated seven years of the past decade, time and again wiping out an esteemed international field with their Australian-style knee paddling. The top Hawaii, USA, Japanese and French paddlers haven’t come close with their surfing-style prone paddling.
For 10 years the world’s top paddlers have been attempting to retrain themselves in the knee paddling style to challenge the Aussies…. and then along came stand-up paddling (SUP). Utilizing a long, wide, thick, paddleboard, coupled with a long, single-blade paddle, an entirely new sport is burning like wildfire across the world’s oceans – both on waves and the open ocean.
SUP was born in Hawaii in the early 1960s when the old Waikiki Beachboys took to standing up on their boards and paddling out with an outrigger canoe-style paddle, enabling them to keep their cameras dry as they shot photos of tourists learning to surf. The sport has been resurrected both on the waves, the open ocean, and in flat water, allowing surfers, paddleboarders and fitness enthusiasts to try something new.
They will all come together on July 29, 2007, to tackle the Molokai Channel. C4 Waterman, the leading company in SUP boards and paddles, will be sponsoring the SUP division of the QuikSilverEdition Molokai to Oahu. So far, there are four solo entries and 16 teams. But the inclusion of SUP is still somewhat controversial.
Given that this ‘new’ method of paddling is faster than the conventional prone or knee-paddle styles, the fastest crossing of the channel could quite possibly be by a stand-up paddler. But even so, he will not be the first finisher. The SUP division will be given a later start to ensure that the old-school arm-paddlers still take line honors.
“It is a new sport, not an equivalent sport, because they have a paddle,” explains Race Director Mike Takahashi. “Since the beginning the rules of this race clearly stated no paddles, no gloves, no artificial aids. So what we can do is create a new division with their own rules.
“The reason for the staggered start is simply a safety one,” adds Takahashi. “The SUPs have contributed a major increase in the number of entries to this race, but the bulk of the entries – around 75% – are still conventional paddleboarders, so they’ll go first.”