By Clare Seeger Mawae
On Saturday, the kids participating in this year’s Molokai Challenge raised well over $2,000 in pledges to donate to their chosen charities. Imagine what could be done with more teams involved?
The Molokai Challenge and A Celebration of Youth Opportunities was first brought to life in 2003 when 80-plus competitors crossed the Pailolo Channel powered by the wind.
The festival itself came to life when the University of Hawaii brought its athletic department to conduct clinics with the Molokai youth and finally a gathering at Malama Park with food, music and booths that promoted opportunities for the youth.
The purpose of this event is to inspire youth to follow their dreams and realize that, no matter the challenges that may be present, opportunities do exist. The crossing from Maui is a chance for adults to give back to the next generation and a chance for youth under the adult chaperones to go out and accomplish challenges while inspiring other youth that they can do the same.
With funding shortages the event took a time out for a few years. But this year, with no funding, the Molokai Challenge was kick-started by two young Molokai stand-up paddlers Josie Mawae, 11, and her brother Alex, 9, when they saw that their new young heroes in ocean sports did just this back in the early crossings.
Sixteen year-olds Shauden Pedro and Kaela Pereira joined in with their quest and all of them did so well with the crossing despite the challenging conditions. These kids paddled on their SUP’s from Maui to Molokai on Saturday.
Six-man canoes added to the fun by paddling the last leg down from Kamalo to Malama Park as the kids landed ashore in part of this whole celebration of youth. Malama Park came alive with the kupuna singing and playing their instruments, dancing hula, talking story bringing forth flowing ideas of the future of this cultural park. No matter how sad this park has looked to the community, the kupuna and other musicians brought life to this historical and cultural location.
That morning on Maui, the three stand-up paddle teams gathered on the beach at D.T. Flemmings, while kiters were preparing themselves around the corner at another location. The SUP teams commenced at 9:35 a.m. with more rainsqualls on the horizon and light winds. The winds were perfect to start tracking over to Molokai since a southwest swell was running and causing turbulence with a strong current in a northeast direction making tactical decisions important.
Out past mid-channel the winds picked up and the swells and wind were lined in a perfect direction to make it to Kamalo Wharf. The speed of Youth in Motion’s relay teams were gaining and it really looked like time was gathering momentum and the target arrival time was looking realistic. Watching Josie and Alex out in the channel was spectacular as it was only recently that they overcame their fear of venturing outside the reef.
As Molokai was approaching with three miles to the destination, The Molokai Challenge proved to live up to its name. The winds shifted to the north and a southwest swell and more offshore winds combined to make it a challenge to finish this leg in a timely fashion. The current from the swell in the last three miles was sweeping out to the northeast, while the wind was blowing more offshore, making determination a strong factor in finishing this crossing. The last three miles took almost one-and-a-half hours to complete because of the challenging factors, making crossing the channel seem quite easy.
Josie Mawae jumped in and took the last hour with Mum, Clare, and paddled across the wind to get into the inside of the reef and away from the current and continued on with working their way to the finish at Kamalo. Four hours and 25 minutes later Josie Mawae touched shore with a huge smile on her face.
Meanwhile, team Pa’a Hana, with Shauden Pedro, continued past Kamalo due to the shifting wind and then pulled out in line with Rice Patch. Two kiting teams had a blast making the most of the wind and swells, giving an incredible air show at Kamalo.
This was an amazing experience for the young paddlers. After the crossing was over, they made it quite clear that this was just the beginning in the long distance racing quest. Both Josie and Alex Mawae are ready and set to mark their calendars for 2012 with more events and for sure doing the Molokai Challenge again, but this time with more experience and training under their belt.
For more information on SUP racing and or trying the sport on Molokai you can contact Clare Seeger Mawae from Stand Up Paddle Association of Molokai and Youth in Motion via email at email@example.com.