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Another weekend of DO EPIC SHIT

Two consecutive weekends, two consecutive crossings of the Pailolo Channel and 54 miles of racing from the islands of Maui to Molokai.

Two very different races, two very different conditions and one consistent result.

Self supported, aiming for the an outline in the distance these races are as much an exercise in skill and navigation as they are athletic prowess.

For those that are not from these shores, these channel crossings requiring a mix of navigation, surfing skills and fitness are where the real challenge lies.

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Spot the odd one out. Bart de Zwart, Connor Baxter and Kody Kerbox – Maui boy’s I’ve been doing this paddling malarkey with since the very beginning.

As we formed the start line between the official boat and a buoy anchored in the water in the sheltered emerald waters of Honolua Bay on Maui’s western shores we could see the wind line forming in front of us.

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It wasn’t this year’s start, but in lieu of having one from this weekend – here’s a look at  the the emerald waters of Honolulu Bay from above

Having been across this channel last weekend and had one of the best downwind runs in memory I was excited for another chance to surf my way from one island to another.

With two events crossing two weekends, many had opted to do the latter of the two. Those that had raced the previous weekend were the lucky ones, treated to an epic crossing and an equally epic welcoming party and hospitality on the other side.

With a big field and the Aussie invasion of Maui in full effect, the pace was on from the gun. It’s also where the fields split in these events – typically right from the gun as some choose to take a high line, others choosing to go more south to get into the bump sooner. One way or another, all roads lead to Rome and it’s crazy how after not seeing anyone for miles you all converge on the same place to finish.

If last weekend was a hero run, this week you had to work for it. The wind had a lot of north in it, the tidal variation was small and going against us which meant the water was really sticky.

The first 10 miles were great and then the hard stuff started. It was hot, it was sticky and the water was in a confused state. As the miles clicked over and we wrapped around the eastern side of Molokai the wind lined up, the swells stacked up and the bump started to run again. It was good but each time my watch beeped to say another mile had passed it was definitely running slower than the previous week.

Without doubt the hardest part of these races is the navigation. Picking your line and trying to pick the fastest line is the make or break when all other things are equal. Should you go a little further south, should you stay inside? It’s a hard question to answer when you have no idea if there are other people around as the swells are higher than a lot of houses so seeing a glimpse of anyone is nigh on impossible at times.

As the long rectangular roof of the wharf building at Kaunakakai Harbour came into view I hotted up my line to skip over the reef to the finish off the end of the pier. In so many sports you know if you won or not, but races like this, if you’ve been separated from your competition you really have no idea. If you can’t see anyone or haven’t seen anyone – you’re either a hero or a total flunk. As I crossed the line I was pleasantly surprised to be advised that my efforts had been enough to win, although I was fast debriefing on what I needed to do differently if I were to do it over again. As always it was less about the result and more about the outcomes to learn and gain from.

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It’s not a lie that these events are somewhat of a logistical nightmare. Starting and finishing on different islands brings it’s own unique set of challenges. You need to have a boat ride back to the start for both you and your board, you’ll get dropped at the wharf which is about 20minutes from where you started, so you needed have thought through how you’re going to shuttle cars. Anything you want at the finish (which needs to be minimal) needs to be on a dry bag and paddled out to a boat before the start.

In many ways, this jigsaw puzzle of logistics and organisation is half the fun and twice the appeal. If it were easy everyone would do it right?

So there we have it. Two weekends, two crossings of the Pailolo Channel, two wins, but two very different races.

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Battling the side chop across the reef on the hot line to the finish

And if you’re wondering why there’s been two races from Maui to Molokai in two weeks, I’ll give you the short hand version. The organisers of the two events used to work together to produce one event. There was a falling out and one event is now run by Molokai and one event is now run from the Maui side. Regardless of who’s running what, the athletes and paddlers are the winners. The Pailolo Channel is possibly the best downwind channel crossing in the world period. And now there’s two races in two consecutive weekends. I’d say that’s a winner straight out of the gate.

You can read about this year’s Maui2Molokai event in the Maui News here and on SupRacer.com here

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3G3B6993Two days, 37 miles of racing. It sounds a lot doesn’t it?

Add deep blue Hawaiian waters, warmth and 20 knots of trade winds blowing from behind.

Yes, it’s officially downwind season in Hawaii, the trade winds are blowing and one huge month of downwind racing kicked off with the M2Molokai Challenge this past weekend.

Two days of racing, one channel crossing and one of the all time classic downwind runs in Hawaii.

July normally sees one crossing of the Pailolo Channel that runs between the west side of Maui and the east side of Molokai. It’s known as the best downwind run in the Hawaiian chain and this month we get two cracks at this all time classic crossing.

Channel crossings are synonymous with all paddle sports in the Pacific. From Tahiti to Hawaii, people have been crossing oceans and channels harnessing the power of the trades and riding their swells to get from one place to another.

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Zane Schweitzer foils the Pailolo Channel skimming over the tops of the swells with paddlers in the background

Navigation on these channel crossings is as big a part as downwind surfing skills, preparation and fitness. I’ve done this run once before and while it’s an epic run, due to the lay of the land it’s easy to get somewhat disoriented and easily end up off course.

Add in coming to grips with 18′ of board, self supporting yourself across (with no escort boat) and navigating your own line, it’s a true test of the downwind athlete.

The real story of the M2Molokai Challenge didn’t lie in the hosting of an all time epic channel crossing, but the chance to truly experience just what it means to spend a weekend on Molokai. 3G3B7293

In what was likely one of the most memorable greetings in recent times, I crossed the finish line, paddled over to the wharf to be greeted by the young girls of the local canoe club jumping off the wharf and into the water to greet me. From that point, only one thing was appropriate – jumping off the dock hand in hand.

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But the action was not contained to one day. M2Molokai was staged as a two day event to give people the opportunity to paddle their world famous Kamalo Bouy run, one of the most perfectly lined up downwind runs anywhere in the world and 10 miles of surfing down the eastern coast of Molokai.

Sure it’s a race, but weekends like this (and downwind season in general) are about so much more than the result. It’s about the sharing of experiences. It’s about getting back to the roots of why you do things and sharing it with others.

It brings together a bunch of people that may otherwise never meet, to experience places they may never visit. For many, it’s the culmination of months of preparation and the realisation of a long held dream. It’s a special bond and one that is shared by many.

With weekend 1 in the bag, we now look forward to the next three consecutive weekends  of downwind racing with another crossing of the Pailolo Channel in the Maui 2 Molokai Race , the Poi Bowl (down Maui’s infamous Maliko Run) all culminating in Molokai 2 Oahu across the Kaiwi Channel between the island of Molokai and Oahu.

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This month everyone has their own journey. Many people will have travelled from all over the world. Months of preparation, sacrifice and dedication have gone in prior to making it to Hawaii. It’s a month that will humble you to the core. It’s a month of respect for the elements, the ocean, all your competition and all the athletes who have embarked on this undertaking.

You can find all the photos, videos and happenings of the M2Molokai Challenge here

You can follow the day to day happenings downwind month on my Instagram

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“Be good….or be good at it”

At the risk of sounding cliche, there’s something about hitting the mid point in the year.

Wind the clock back six months and I was in a state of confusion and frustration.

The only thing I committed to was to live by the mantra of ‘Do Epic Shit’.

It’s been six months of rolling with the punches, diving into the unknown, embracing challenge, finding solutions and hustling like no tomorrow.

I took the leap of faith to go it alone, to live to my own set of rules – a stoically entrenched set of values that I knew I couldn’t deviate from.

If I was to continue to put my heart and body on the line, I had to be ALL IN. I had to back myself as how could I expect anyone else to have confidence in me if I didn’t have confidence in myself.

As today marks my kiwi birthday, the 4th of July celebrations in the United States and poignantly sits just after the mid point in the year, it’s fitting to cast a look back to see how taking the leap of faith and throwing myself in the deep end has paid off.

It’s challenged my like you have no idea. I’ve destroyed a shoulder, broken some ribs and had to suck it up. Like a bugger for punishment I decided to race my bike and throw my self into multisport as well as racing on the water. At the same time I’ve been neck deep in building a house at home and managing that from afar.

There have been more than a few moments of holy shit and hesitation. That feeling of having a lump in your throat wondering if you’re making the right decision to do or not to do. It’s pushed me, it’s challenged me and I’ve found a few new boundaries in the process that I didn’t know I had.

As America celebrates it’s birthday of independence on July 4th, it also signifies my kiwi birthday falling on the other side of the date line.

Ever guilty of being focussed on the future at the expense of celebrating the small things along the way, here’s a few moments and memories to celebrate one fine day in America and reaching another year older. Here’s a few of the many moments that have made 2017 a year that I know I’ll never forget

Big days out in the hills running the dates with mates programme

3 Weeks Notice Before 2 Days of Hell around the mountains of Wanaka, NZ at Red Bull Defiance

 

7x Consecutive NZ National SUP Titles – and a cyclone to boot

Did someone say #raceface? Any excuse to chew some dirt and throw some dust

 

5x Consecutive Carolina Cup Victories

 

The year of events in extreme weather continued with the added bonus of a win at the Olukai on Maui

Last minute trips to paddle 30 miles around Bermuda and another win over the boys

The infamous Davenport Downwinder & a victory over the boys

A first trip to the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail, Co. 11x events, 4 days, 2nd in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge and being sent to some very dark places on repeat to find some new depths that I didn’t know existed

A chance to celebrate everything that is Live Like Jay at the Jay Moriarty Memorial Race in Santa Cruz, Ca with the one and only Kim Moriarty

While the first half of 2017 may be in the bag, there’s a monster of a second half of 2017 to contend with.

The month of July sees me in Maui, HI taking on four consecutive weekends of downwind races including three channel crossings culminating in Molokai 2 Oahu on July 30.

Looking ahead to September I have finally (for the first time in 5 years) said yes to taking up my position on the NZ SUP team to compete in the ISA SUP & Prone World Champs in Denmark from September 1-10. After turning down my place on the team in previous years for various different reasons, this year I have said yes.  Like the rest of my year, this is also a self funded trip. If anyone would like to support in any kind of way, please get in touch. 

To everyone who has supported, helped and assisted so far – THANK YOU. It takes a VILLAGE and it’s a village I’m proud to have behind me.

Here’s to the Doing of Epic Shit.