“Surprise” Weekend!! By Connor Baxter
The Molokai-2-Oahu Race as Jamie Mitchell states, “If you love paddling, this is the race of all races – it’s our Superbowl. I love the feeling of apprehension, the nerves and waiting to see what the ocean’s going to deliver. The depth of talent in this year’s race is unsurpassed.”
Well – the event for me started on Thursday. My dad, mom and I were to take our boat from Maui to Molokai on Friday, relax on Saturday, Race on Sunday. So preparations started on Thursday getting the boat provisioned and equipped.
Around 3:00pm my dad called me and asked me to pick up a guy named “Mike” at the airport. He was going to go on our boat for support. I asked what he looked like, what his cell number was – and my dad told me I did not know him – but he knew me. His cell phone was dead – but he would be holding a paddle.
I got to the airport – and what a “SURPRISE”!!! There was no “Mike” – My sister Ashley had flown in from California – to be with us for the weekend. She walked up to the car – and I was speechless. She and my dad had planned this Surprise – and WOW – what an OUTRAGEOUS Surprise!!
So – already the Weekend started out fantastic for me – with my sister coming to watch me race.
We all left on Friday morning from Kahului Harbor and headed over to the west side of Molokai. We stopped in Kaunakakai on the south side of Molokai to grab my race board that we left with our friend Greg Jenkins after the Triple Crown Event. Finally arriving at Kaluakoi Beach around 4:00pm, we swam in and walked to our condo settling in before dinner.
Saturday was a day to take it easy, focus on the upcoming race and what I had to do to win. That night the event had organized a dinner for us, then I went and had a second dinner at the Maui Jim get together and then it was straight to bed from there.
The next day we had to wake up at 5:00 in the morning to get down to the beach and get ready. Right before the race we had a Pule (Hawaiian Prayer) and then off to the water for the start of a long day. I was really stoked with the start – cause the Solo SUP’s got to start with all the Solo prone paddlers, which was cool because I got to paddle next to Jamie Mitchell for a bit.
When the horn blew I knew what I had to do and that is all I was focusing on. There was a little wind right from the start and I was catching some little bumps, which is always nice. I knew my biggest competition would be Dave Kalama, Scott Gamble and Livio Menelau. And, sure enough – the four of us were out in front quickly.
After about an hour Scott Gamble and I had taken the lead – and we were together right until the end. Pushing each other – never letting up. As we got more and more into the channel the swells got bigger and I started to get better and better glides. I had a steady pace going that was keeping me in the front of the pack. The farther I got into the channel it got harder and harder. I was getting more tired and the current was getting stronger going against me. But, I kept it going as hard as I could until the end.
One thing that really helped was having my family on the boat cheering for me to keep me going. Hearing them cheer was like drinking some energy drink – it just gave a huge boast to paddle harder.
When I was about 10 miles off of Oahu it felt like I wasn’t moving and it didn’t look like I was getting closer to the island at all. The current in the channel is swift – and runs north hampering the downwind headway. As Dave Kalama wrote “Most of this race really is fun…, but when you get close to Oahu the fun stops and the reality of how hard it really is starts to set in. For some reason Mother Nature decided to put one of her most wicked currents in front of Oahu acting like a night club bouncer protecting the door.”
Keeping an eye on Scott – I noticed we were dead even except he was more north than I was. This positioning made a big difference. And, I was exactly where I needed and wanted to be.
When we turned down to head to Coco Head, I was closer than him because he was more upwind (North) of me. This gave me a good gap on him, which would be really hard for him to make up.
Making it to the wall and hugging it, getting out of the washing machine, getting around Portlock – I knew what was in store for me. The “Next” hardest part of the race – the end – making it to the finish line.
Once I turned the corner it was $&!#. I had to paddle upwind for about 1½ miles – and the wind was blowing – gusting to about 20mph right in my face. I was already super tired from the 31 mile Crossing – but then to top it off I had this nice treat. I choked up on my paddle, crouched down with my body, put my head down and just kept paddling to the finish. As I got closer and closer I could hear all the people, which made me paddle faster.
Being the first person to the beach Overall was pretty cool because normally Jamie is the first guy to touch the beach. When I crossed the finish I was so dead and ready for a nice cool – you got it – a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup!!
I ended up with a time of 4:26:10. This time beat last years record be almost 30 minutes and beat Jamie’s new record by about 15 minutes. I was really happy with my result and can’t wait for the next challenge.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Rainbow Sandals, Maui Jim Sunglasses, EFX Technology, Dakine, Nike 6.0, GoPro Cameras, On It Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Sunrite Maui, SIC Maui and Hi-Tech Sports.
A Special Thanks to Scott Sanchez from MPG for his wisdom as a trainer.
And, to a wonderful, thoughtful, special Sister – Ashley – Thanks for this special “surprise” weekend!!!
Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and volunteers.
Photos: Karen Baxter!!
Our Boat – before the Race:
The Start: Connor, Tomoe, Scott, Livio, Dave:
Leaving Molokai – Connor & Scott in lead:
Connor & Scott:
Connor with Dave:
Connor with Scott:
On the Rocks – Connor’s Uncle Greg Cheering him on!!!!!
Heading Upwind to the finish:
The Finish Line!!!!!!
Livio, Scott and Connor at the Awards!!