By Clare Seeger Mawae
The M2O (Molokai2Oahu) Paddleboard World Championship race always brings out the top paddlers to cross the Kaiwi Channel 32 miles between the islands of Molokai and Oahu. Each year is difficult, but the conditions in this year’s 19th annual crossing on July 26 were perhaps the most grueling ever. Light winds and a big south swell made for a spectacular finish, with competitors riding the waves on their race equipment to the finish line.
Alex Mawae, 13, of Molokai, formed a team with some of the stronger youth paddlers who happened to have local ties, under the banner of Youth in Motion. Mawae was born and lives on Molokai. Kalia Alexiou, from Santa Cruz, has a mom who spent summers with her grandparents in Waillua, (Cuelho) on Molokai. Lara Claydon is from Lahaina, Maui and her dad started Young Life with the Molokai Baptist Church. The young team represented Molokai well since Ekolu Kalama won this race back in 2010.
The 2015 race proved to be a challenging race with light east winds and a big south swell causing the organizers to make a mandatory buoy turn when coming into Hawaii Kai. The news of eight-foot Hawaiian-style waves was relayed to the briefing on Molokai and the racers all knew there would be surf coming into the finish line!
The kids did well, and although wanting stronger winds like many of the competitors, they dealt with the conditions and made the most of it. Doing this race was a dream for all three team members, with the goal of going solo when they are older. Alex was the youngest of the three but the veteran of the channel crossings, making his third Kaiwi crossing after having already completed two Pailolo crossings in his young SUP career. Lara had recently paddled the channel back in May with Alex, making this her second Kaiwi crossing. She has also completed two solo crossings from Maui to Molokai. Kalia is also no stranger to long distance paddling; she completed many grueling races on the mainland, making the light east winds and swells to ride super fun compared to the conditions she has been racing in. Every change was fun with the kids leaping off the boat with excitement, ready to take on their session of paddling as fast as they could.
In a strong international fleet, team Youth in Motion put on a very impressive performance with one goal in mind: not to be last! They certainly stood their ground and proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. They placed in the middle of the fleet and second in the mixed division with a respectable time of 6 hours, 39 minutes. They were also the only all Junior Team in this year’s event.
The team plans to be back for 2016, ready to take on the next challenge of winning their division and place high in the overall results as they become stronger and one year older.
Watch out for Alex Mawae and team Youth in Motion for 2016!