The 2014 Maui Jim Molokai Challenge and Surfski World Championship on May 18 was the strongest field perhaps ever in the 38-year history of the Kanaka Ikaika Molokai channel crossing.
Featuring nearly half a dozen previous champions and a $10,000 purse, the world’s best were prepared for 3-1/2 hours of battle with the Kaiwi Channel. In the end, it was South Africa’s Hank McGregor who beat defending champion Clint Robinson by 23 seconds.
Besides Australian Clint Robinson, who has won the race three of the previous four years, other competitors included five-time champion Grant Kenny and his brother Martin. Epic Kayaks own 12-time champion Oscar Chalupsky, 2009 champion Hank McGregor, 2007 and 2008 champion Lewis Laughlin plus strong contenders such as Cory Hill and Jeremy Cotter from Australia, Jasper Mocke from South Africa, Dorian Wolter from Germany, Hiromana Flores from Tahiti who paddles with Shell Va’a, and legendary Olympic K-1 and K-2 winner Greg Barton.
For his win, McGregor took home $2,000 while Robinson walked away with $1,250 and Cory Hill claimed third for $1,000. Phil Gumbert was the first Hawaiian paddler across the line earning his place in history on the perpetual trophy. Oscar Chalupsky won the Kala Kukea perpetual trophy for the 50’s division and the women’s division was dominated by Rachel Clarke from New Zealand. Hawaii’s 16-year old Ale Hedlund completed her first crossing to finish third.
The race also introduced a three-person relay division for OC-1, SUP and prone paddleboards which included paddlers such as Kai Bartlett, Aaron Napolean and Will Richenstein in the OC-1, Brad Gual on the Prone paddleboard and Kelsa Gabehart on the SUP. There was also a relay division for surfski paddlers who had not trained enough for a solo crossing.
The finish at Cha Cha Cha Salsaria in the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center was an Epic event with plenty of Cerveza Pacifico and great food. Mahalo to Maui Jim, Epic Kayaks, Think Kayaks, Ocean Minded shoes, Cerveza Pacifico, Ocean Paddler TV, Pacific Paddler Magazine, Scott Hawaii, Kai Wa’a Canoes, Riviera Paddlesurf, Bark Paddleboards, Aloha Gas, Cha Cha Cha Salsaria, Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, Allstate, Mac 24/7 and the island of Molokai.