Channel Surfing the Molokai: It Doesn’t Have to be Brutal




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Sunday, July 26, 2009
Start at 7:30am.

From Kaluakoi on the west end of Molokai island, 32 miles across the Ka’iwi Channel to a finish line at Maunalua Bay Beach Park in Hawaii Kai.

Defending men’s and women’s paddleboard champions:
Jamie Mitchell (Australia) & Kanesa Duncan (Hawaii).
Defending SUP champion
Duane DeSoto (Hawaii).
Team SUP: Gerry Lopez (Hawaii) & Jay ‘Sparky’ Longley, Jr. (Rainbow Sandals founder).

Men’s solo paddleboard:
Jamie Mitchell (Australia), 4:48:23, set in 2007.
Women’s solo paddleboard: Kanesa Duncan (Hawaii),
5:53:49, set in 2004.
SUP solo: Kevin Horgan (Kauai), 5:54:59, set in 2007.
SUP team: Ekolu & David Kalama (Maui), 4:36:55, set in 2007.
Stock 2-man Team: Jimmy Austin & Dolan Eversole (Hawaii), 5:04:48, set in 2004.

c4-waterman dukes-waikikichannel-surfing-the-molokai-04


HONOLULU – (June 15, 2009) — The 32-mile paddleboard crossing of the Molokai (Ka’Iwi) Channel is considered the most brutal physical and mental challenge in the world for the waterman. But the new wave of standup (SUP) paddlers are here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be a near-death experience. The word is out and the SUP division of the Rainbow Sandals Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race, presented by Honolua, is the fastest growing division of this 13 year-old race. Offering solo and team categories, it’s also luring its fair share of big names.

Without a doubt, tackling the Ka’Iwi solo is where the major praise lies — along with the major pain. But the Molokai martyrdom isn’t for everyone. For SUP-ers, the idea of channel surfing the distance with a paddle and a buddy is the big attraction.

Among those 2-man teams contesting the 2009 SUP division are: Gerry “Mr. Pipeline” Lopez and Rainbow Sandals founder Jay “Sparky” Longley; former world 16-ranked pro surfer and Polo Ralph Lauren model Buzzy Kerbox and Kiva Rivers; top SUP designer/shaper Dave Parmenter and godfather

Among those 2-man teams contesting the 2009 SUP division are: Gerry “Mr. Pipeline” Lopez and Rainbow Sandals founder Jay “Sparky” Longley; former world 16-ranked pro surfer and Polo Ralph Lauren model Buzzy Kerbox and Kiva Rivers; top SUP designer/shaper Dave Parmenter and godfather of distance SUP, Archie Kalepa; and C4 Waterman founder Todd Bradley and his 18-year-old son Christian, who race SUP in the purest style – on a shorter, rudderless 14-foot board.

So what’s all the hype about? When it comes to surfing, the dream is an endless ride without the paddle. Riding a channel like the Molokai, with a good swell running and a hearty tradewind at your back, is as close to the dream as you can get.

channel-surfing-the-molokai-02.jpg Above: Buzzy Kerbox on a “runner” from Molokai to Oahu, 2008.

Former pro surfer and shaper Dave Parmenter has had access to both the world’s best waves and boards for decades. Over the past three years, his focus has turned to SUP – both doing it and meeting the demand for functional SUP boards. He has crossed the Molokai channel on almost every watercraft possible, but hasn’t found anything that compares to SUP.

“The Molokai race is pretty much the apex of my year as a watersports enthusiast,” says Parmenter.

“None of the paddlesports disciplines are superior all the way down the line; each has its benefits and drawbacks. I think most veteran surfers will tell you they have done quite enough prone paddling in their lives. It’s brutal on your neck and back and you are down in the spray all day and cannot get a very good view of the course and field. Canoes are a lot of fun, especially OC-1s. But nothing is as intimate as stand-up paddling, which allows you to ride bumps in the open ocean using many of the same techniques one would use in big-board surfing.

“For me, there’s nothing I have experienced in conventional surfing as thrilling and addictive as heading off on a 10-mile run on a 14-foot board with a 25-knot wind at your back. I actually enjoy it more than standard surfing.”

Kerbox knows what Parmenter’s talking about:

“Standup is a great way to get out in the windy conditions and have fun while getting a great overall workout,” says Buzzy. “And that has really expanded to awesome wave-riding with the new performance boards that just keep getting shorter and better.

“It’s just so civilized. You are standing up, so you’re not holding your neck up and using only your arms. You get a great view of the ocean while you spread the work to many different muscles.”

Gerry Lopez, one of surfing’s most stylish and lauded exponents, pulled up Pipeline stumps and moved to Oregon in 1992. Today, his time on the water is largely spent SUP’ing the lakes, rivers and Oregon coastline. He’s looking forward to teaming up with old friend and sponsor of almost 40 years – Rainbow Sandals creator Jay Longley.

“We’re just hoping to finish the race,” says a reliably understated Lopez.

“Sparky and I started (SUP) the same day about three years ago. We went to San Onofre and Ron House taught us the basics. It’s new, difficult, so very challenging, exciting, and a fresh way to ride waves and just be on the water. Plus the core workout is outstanding.”

When you combine the fun and benefits of SUP with the nature and reverance of the Molokai Channel, it’s not surprizing there’s such a buzz; it’s the total waterman experience and one that keeps you coming back.

“It brings to mind something that writer Isak Dinesen said about Kenya in her book Out of Africa,” muses Parmenter. “That even decades later in her native Denmark she couldn’t help but wonder if there was rain in the Ngong Hills. Similarly for me, no matter where I am in the world, I can’t help but cast my mind homeward and wonder if there is wind in the Kaiwi Channel.”

The Rainbow Sandals Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race, presented by Honolua, C4 Waterman, Duke’s Waikiki and Maui Jim, will take place on Sunday, July 26, with the first finishers expected at Oahu’s Maunaloa Bay around Noon. More than 100 paddlers will make the 32-mile crossing. A record prize purse of $16,000 is on offer, with the lion’s share going to the first solo paddleboarder and the first solo SUP-er.


Rainbow Sandals is a privately owned company out of San Clemente, California, founded more than 35 years ago by Jay ‘Sparky’ Longley Jr., who grew tired of seeing broken sandals littering the beaches. He vowed to come up with a sandal that would be long lasting and comfortable. The result was a soft sponge-rubber sandal that rapidly gained a reputation of comfort synonymous with the easy going beach lifestyle it was born out of.


Mike Takahashi, Race Director, (808) 638-8208


Jodi Wilmott, Ocean Promotion, (808) 258-8533

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3 Responses to “Channel Surfing the Molokai: It Doesn’t Have to be Brutal”

  1. surf mamma 1surf mamma

    Who has the stock solo record for the Molokai Race?

  2. Samantha Campbell 2Samantha Campbell

    How about a giving the women a mention? Andrea Moller and Maria Souza have decimated the women’s team division the last three years, placing 3rd against the guys last year. Andrea is going at it solo this year. C’mon guys!

  3. Evan Leong 3evan

    Samantha – Good point! This was a press release from the race organizers so hopefully they will promote the women in the following communications.

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