Connor Baxter Soars to 3rd Olukai Ho’olaule’a Win

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The 2014 Olukai Ho’olaule’a was a great event. It might not be obvious to everyone there, but the Olukai team invests maybe as much time in doing a community service as it does on the race days. This year as they closed out their 6th annual Ho’olaule’a they shared a giveback day at Kaheawa Wind mills. More than 75 of the OluKai ‘Ohana planted 30 Koa trees. As the racers headed home, the Olukai ohana was hard at work. Mahalo, from one of the “Maui Boyz.”

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Okay, now you want my story. It was a Saturday morning when I showed up to Maliko Gulch to sign up and get ready to start. The wind was superlight but it was increasing by the hour which was perfect for the starting time. Starting time for the Olukai is always at “high noon.” I was super stoked to be home for this event and to compete in my backyard. There’s no better feeling than to compete at home. Having my knowledge and home court advantage is awesome.

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I paddled out about 20 minutes before the start to get warmed up and ready for action. I paddled as far out as possible to get a good line to Kanaha Beach Park. I lined up with my bow in the path of the jet skis and got ready to start the race standing up.

When the horn blew we are all off – Travis Grant, Danny Ching, Kody Kerbox, Jeremy Riggs, Livio Menelau. Travis took an early lead with the perfect start and I was one bump behind him. Once we got to Hookipa I got a couple bumps and pulled up next to him and then actually started to pull away from him.

At this moment I knew my best chance would be to paddle my hardest until the flatwater and make sure I had a good gap on Danny and Travis. I didn’t want to be anywhere near Danny or Travis in the flatwater. So I wanted to make a statement and crush them in the downwind leg.

I kept my head down and didn’t turn around much for a good long ways. I did steal a glimpse a few times to make sure I was still in front and had a comfortable lead. By the time I got to Sugar Cove I had a good comfortable gap on Travis who was in second place. At this moment I just didn’t want to have any surprises, so I put my head down and started sprinting my hardest.

I got outside of Camp One and there it was! I quickly found a wave to catch a ride into the beach. I took one more look back when they got into the flatwater area and knew I had it. I just kept my head down. Paddling my hardest the goal was just to try to make a big gap!!!! So I kept going to the buoy to turn in. I turned it very quickly hit the beach and sprinted like crazy.
The only thought going through my mind was “should I dive again – should I dive again”

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That was weird. But at the last second I went with my gut feeling and dove across the finish line. I think I am getting known for my Superman Finishes!

Just the same, it might have been an event that happened hours after most of the participants finished that was the most inspiring of the day. I was fortunate to be at the finish when former Navy Seal Kimo Akaka finished his paddle and made his way through deep, hot sand for the final part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a copurse.

Kimo suffered a stroke in 2011 that rendered him paraplegic, unable to feel or use any extremity other than his right arm. By strapping himself to the board and using his right arm to paddle and feet to steer, Kimo was able to navigate the water and ocean for which he loves most. A local legend, Archie Kalepa, joined him on the water half way through his journey to the finish line. (read the full story here)

04-olukai2014-feet It was an honor to throw water on the sand to help make the final yards of Kimo’s journey the best it could be

I have had some difficult competitions over the years. Maybe I was exhausted by travel and didn’t finish the way I’d hoped in the Carolina Cup. Maybe I had injuries from BOP in 2013 that hindered my ranking in the final events of the 2014 Standup Series. Being witness to the courage and stamina of Kimo Akaka put a lot of things in perspective. Since the Fall of 2013 I have undergone stem cell surgery and months of grueling rehab. I am truly grateful for the treatment I had access to and the level of fitness I have been able to return to.

If you want to compete at your highest level – be ready. Be ready for set backs, be ready for injuries and be ready for the greatest thing of all. Be ready to learn how much you are able to give for goals you want to accomplish. Be ready also – to be inspired by those around you. Yes, the Olukai Ho’olaule’a is a very unique event. In the words of Kimo, “Today there was nothing better than being on Maui, with Archie as my support.” -Kimo Akaka, Navy Seal, Oahu Native, Stroke Survivor #Hoolaulea #Inspiration #Competition #InsideHawaii #RaceReady

SUP Magazine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h4D7Pir1V0
Here is a link for YouTube from Buzzy Kerbox.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrU_u41kjhw

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I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Dakine, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Rainbow Sandals, Futures Fins, Virus Sportswear, Trident Sports, GoPro, OnIt Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Garmin, Igloo Coolers, Hammer Nutrition, iDcard, Sunrite Maui, and Hi-Tech Sports. Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and volunteers. Great Event!!
And check out the event link for more info and links to photos:

Aloha,
Connor Baxter

You can stay in touch with Connor by:
Liking his Facebook page
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Following him on Twitter
And Instagram

For action and the stories behind the events check out Connor’s YouTube channel

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