Molokai 2 Oahu: Fun facts

The 52km channel crossing by paddleboard is named “the channel of bones” for a reason
Jordan Mercer competing in the Molokai 2 Oahu © Dana Edmunds
By Josh Rakic

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing and modern paddleboarding. And it’s also home to this weekend’s Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships, a 52km slog across the shark-infested Ka’iwi Channel that separates the best from the rest. So as the likes of Kai Lenny and Jordan Mercer prepare to fly the flag for Red Bull this weekend, we thought we’d bring you some fun facts about the event.

The event is celebrating 19 years
Yep, like Sandra Bullock, this event is a lot older than it looks. And both look great, just quietly. While it’s slowly etched its way into mainstream consciousness the past five or so years, the first race took place way back in 1997 when goat boats were a surfer’s biggest enemy and SUP was about as well known as a young Kim Kardashian. Like the Kardashians, the sport has spread like wildfire since.

The first race was prone
Like we said, SUP wasn’t really a “thing” in the 1990s and so the very first race was contested as a purely prone event - you know, paddling on one’s knees or stomach. And while stand-up paddleboarding is at peak popularity - not unlike roller blades in the ’90s but more refined - it’s the prone category that holds the prestige. It’s where it all started and it brings the world’s best ironmen and women to Molokai to compete - including four-times women’s champ Jordie Mercer.

Eddie Aikua
The Ka’iwi (Hawaiian for Bones) Channel is the infamous passage where surfing legend Eddie Aikau went missing in 1978 during the debut voyage of the Hokule’a - a replica Polynesian sailing canoe. The treacherous channel provides all the conditions for the perfect storm that has seen many a ship sink and many a man fall a victim. Of course, when the Hokele’a found strife Eddie took his board and paddled out into the night for help. Hawaii’s greatest waterman was never seen again and to this day his sacrifice serves as a reminder of the dangers the channel possesses.

You don’t have to be that fit...
OK, OK. Yes, you have to be extremely fit to take on the race solo. Or be a robot even. But nowadays, the popularity of the event has seen it evolve with a number of categories, including three-person team entry. And of course, there’s the veteran water safety team that make sure every athlete remains safe. So if you think you can paddle 17km - or back and forth across Sydney’s South and North Head twice - then you’re a chance. However, so coveted is the event that it now relies on a lottery system for would-be competitors. You feeling lucky, punk?

If you have to leave the North Shore or any of the other islands and spend time in Waikiki, then Duke’s is the indisputable place to pull up stumps. And it also happens to be the MANDATORY meeting point for all Molokai2Oahu competitors. On the sand under the Outrigger Hotel, it’s the location of the original Outrigger Canoe Club where stand up paddleboarding is said to have been invented. Or at least popularized when the restaurant’s namesake was in his prime and introduced surfing as we know it to the world. Worse case scenario you get stuck into a few of the island’s tastiest burgers in don’t make the start line…

The race takes place this Sunday, July 26 or Monday morning AEST.

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