By Clare Seeger Mawae
Two Molokai stand-up paddlers, 11-year-old Josie Mawae and her 9-year-old brother Alex, were the two youngest competitors in the prestigious line up at the sixth annual Naish Paddle Championships, held on Maui July 24 from Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor.
World-class competitors from all over the world, in both the prone and stand-up paddle divisions, gathered for this 9.54-mile event.
Two months ago, Josie and Alex were in fear of venturing outside the reef, but at the beginning of July they did their first Maliko run on Maui. After paddling in extreme conditions of 40 knot-plus winds and big rolling swells, the two youngsters decided they were ready to take on the competition.
A total of 221 paddlers gathered at Maliko Gulch despite the lack of the regular strong trades. Winds of about 12-15 knots was all that the competitors could expect. The four starts were staggered with three minute intervals commencing with the prone, 12-foot-6, 14-foot and unlimited.
In the men’s division, Jamie Mitchell from Australia took first place in the prone division and Dave Kalama took first place in the unlimited. In the 14 division, it was Jeremy Riggs. And finally, in the 12-foot-6 division, it was 16-year-old Connor Baxter.
In the women’s division, Candice Appleby won the prone division, 18-year-old Talia Gangini took the victory in the SUP unlimited, Sonni Hoenscheid dominated the 14-foot division and Tomoko Okazaki won the 12-foot-6 division. Thirteen-year-old Riggs Napoleon won the 14-foot class in the under-16 division, placing 19th overall.
Molokai’s own Josie Mawae took second in her age division, the women’s under 30 in the 12-foot-6 division, while her brother Alex Mawae finished in fourth place to the likes of Connor Baxter, one of the top paddlers in the world. Older sister Kaela,16 years-old, finished fourth in the under 30’s in the 14-foot class, while Mum took the role of a racing chaperone paddling back and forth between the Molokai kids.
This event was quite the experience for these young paddlers, bringing home respectable times of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 2 hours, 10 minutes considering the light winds and lack of muscle power compared to that of the other paddlers. Perhaps the best part of this event was that their confidence factor rose knowing that the deep blue and rolling swells of the ocean was not as scary as they once appeared.
It was also refreshing to see other young paddlers in the race such as 12 year-old Skylar Lickle from Maui, 13 year-old Heimoana Delongeaux from Tahiti, Maleko Lorenzo from Maui, 13 year-old Riggs Napoleon from Oahu, the 14 year-old kids Bern Roediger, Noah Yap, Travis Baptiste and, of course, 16 year-old Connor Baxter. These kids are paving the future for hopefully many more young paddlers to enjoy this sport.
A great event by all and perhaps next year there will be more of a line up from Molokai.