Maui Sports

Top Athletes Return for Molokaʻi-2-Oʻahu Paddleboard Championships

July 25, 2018, 7:47 AM HST
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The 22nd Molokaʻi-2-Oʻahu Paddleboard World Championships (M2O) takes place on July 29, 2018. The talent in the elite field has the potential to produce some of the fastest crossings in race history if the Kaʻiwi Channel presents its traditionally lively blend of wind waves.

In addition to the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) divisions, this year’s M2O will welcome a handful of racers who will test hydrofoil technology on modified SUP boards for the first time.

In the solo unlimited prone paddle board race, Australia’s Matt Bevilacqua, 26, is trending faster with each race. In 2016, he returned to set a new course record and then took a three-peat in 2017 (4:29:32), besting his previous record by 12 seconds.

Bevilacqua will be racing alongside Alex Wright, 21, and Campbell Guthrie, 19. Both men are under-19 champions in the prestigious Coolangatta Gold, an endurance surf sports competition held on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The women’s race will feature a head-to-head challenge between last year’s champion and new course record holder Harriet Brown, 28, and six-time champion Jordan Mercer, 24, who is back after missing last year’s race due to injury. Even in Mercerʻs absence, Brown’s record of 5 hours, 14 minutes, 15 seconds bested Mercer’s fastest time by more than 15 minutes, proving this matchup between two of Australia’s top Ironwomen could be extremely tight.

The pace of this year’s solo stock prone men’s paddleboard race will likely be defined by 30-year-old Stewart McLachlan who won M2O in 2016, and 2017 when he set the current course record of 5:02:43, besting his 2016 time of 5:05:41. But, his Australian counterpart Lachie Lansdown, 22, is chasing his first M2O championship, which has proved elusive over his years of competition in the Channel of Bones.

Robin Lang, 30, from the state of Virginia and Australiaʻs Heli Murray, 48, will likely lead the womenʻs stock race. Lang finished second last year at M2O and Murray is a strong competitor in her countryʻs famous lifeguard sporting events.

In 2017, the men’s unlimited SUP race saw a close battle between two M2O champions Connor Baxter from Maui and Australian Travis Grant. In the end, Grant pulled away to his third championship just a few minutes ahead of Baxter to become the first SUP athlete to break the four-hour mark in 3:59:52. Baxter who has three M2O wins at the age of 23 and Grant, 35, are back for a rematch.

Also in the mix this year are returning competitors Titouan Puyo, 27, from New Caledonia who placed third in the men’s race in 2017, and one of Australia’s top SUP athletes James Casey, 26, who placed fourth.

Kody Kerbox, 24, is Hawaiʻi’s bid for top honors. Kerbox, who has placed consistently in the stock division is stepping in to the unlimited race.

New Zealand’s Penelope Strickland, 39, is back to defend her 2017 title in the womenʻs race. After finishing second to three-time champ Sonni Honscheid, from Germany in 2016, Strickland bested former M2O champion Terrene Black from Australia last year and set a new course record of 4:52:32. Strickland is the second woman in race history to break the five-hour mark.

The men’s stock race always proves to be a lively competition. This year’s race features Josh Riccio, 29 from Florida and Niuhiti Buillard, 26 from French Polynesia. Riccio put down an impressive finish time of 4:36:45 last year and Buillard was only a few minutes slower in his 2016 win in the category, which will make this a tight match up.

They will be joined by Hawaiʻi’s Mo Freitas, 21, who has placed consistently in this category and Vinnicius Martins, 22, from Brazil who finished fifth in 2017.

Siri Schubert, 49, is back to defend her 2017 win in how women’s race. She will likely be challenged by Hawaiʻi’s Annie Reickert, 19, who recently won the Maui to Molokaʻi race in the stock category.

For more details and the raceday schedule, go to www.molokai2oahu.com.

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