Clint Robinson won the 37th annual Molokai Surf Ski World Championship race Sunday for the third time in four years, an achievement that helps seal his reputation as the greatest Aussie kayaker ever.
The 40-year-old Australian crossed the 32 miles of the Kaiwi Channel in 3 hours, 55 minutes, 24 seconds. A 1992 Olympic gold medalist in kayaking, Robinson was able to beat out the 50-year old Molokai surf ski legend Oscar Chalupsky of South Africa.
Last year, Chalupsky nipped Robinson by 20 seconds at the finish. Chalupsky won the race for the 12th time but finished behind the two-man kayak team of Greg Barton and Zsolt Svadovski of the United States and Hungary.
When asked why the Molokai race is so special, Chalupsky said, “It is one of the most competitive international races and has been around for nearly 40 years. It has incredible history and allure for anybody that gets into ocean paddling.” Chalupsky finished in ninth place this year in 4:28:24.
Sean Rice of South Africa finished second in 4:00:43 while Aussie Cory Hill, a first timer at the Molokai race, placed third in 4:06:04. Miranda Davies of Australia was the top female finisher, placing 33rd overall in a time of 5:18:08.
Racers set off from Kepuhi Beach on Molokai’s West End at 11 a.m., headed for the finish line at Hawaii Kai Town Center on Oahu. A large south swell challenged the kayakers as they approached Oahu and hit the China Wall break.
Low winds made the race slower than it has been in previous years. Nine-time Molokai winner Dean Gardiner holds the course record of 3:21:26 set in 1997.
For Robinson, yesterday’s win was another notch on a long list of kayaking victories. Besides winning the gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 in the 1,000-meter K1, he is also the world champion in five different paddle sports (sprint kayaking, SLS spec ski, ocean ski, SLS board and 6-man outrigger). He also earned an Olympic silver (Athens 2004) and bronze (Atlanta 1996). Growing up in Queensland, he represented Australia in rugby and surf lifesaving but soon gave up rugby to pursue water sports.