PHOTOS: Fourth Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a SUP Race

May 13, 2012, 11:33 PM HST · Updated May 14, 1:14 AM
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By Madeline Ziecker

An adrenaline-pumped paddler running across the finish line at Kanaha Beach Park after landing on the beach. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

An estimated 275 stand-up-paddlers gathered at Maliko Gulch in Haiku on Saturday, May 12 for one of the year’s most popular downwind SUP races – the Fourth Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a.

Hosted by California’s OluKai Footwear, the OluKai Ho’olaule’a stands out from other Maui SUP races in that the $15,000 prize purse is awarded equally to winners of both genders in the elite division. Attendance has nearly tripled since the first OluKai event, and is expected to grow even more in future years with the event’s popularity.

The race began at noon sharp after final registration and an opening blessing on the beach. By 12:30 p.m., spectators began seeing the hundreds of yellow-shirted paddlers coast by Ho’okipa Beach Park and other north shore beach spots for all 8 miles of the paddle race, which ended at Kanaha Beach Park. It was an impressive sight.

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OluKai staff and some of the more experienced paddlers described north shore race conditions as “perfect,” but lower-level paddlers said it was a hard paddle due to insufficient wind support. All agreed, however, that the full day of sun, clear skies, and light winds made for a breathtaking and unforgettable view from their SUP boards as they paddled downwind along the coast.

Once paddlers arrived at Kanaha Beach Park, they made one last 300-yard sprint on the beach to the finish line near the Canoe Club Hale, where tasty local grinds awaited them.

Maui “SUPerstar” Talia Gangini, who has participated in the event every year since its conception, said that the H’olaule’a is one of her favorite annual SUP races to participate in on Maui because of its unique values and Hawaiian cultural authenticity with emphasis on ohana and giving back.

“I love this race, I do it every year,” said Gangini. “It’s a great event to enjoy with the family and I especially like that the prizes are gender-equal.”

Around 2 p.m. when bellies were full and some of the last paddlers had arrived at Kanaha, the real ho’olaule’a (celebration) began with live Hawaiian entertainment from Lae’ula O Kai Canoe Club director Sharon Balidoy’s halau, prize giveaways for participants like OluKai “slippahs,” and the much-anticipated awards ceremony.

Before announcing the winners, OluKai presented donations from their generous Ohana Giveback Program to beneficiaries Paia Youth & Cultural, Lae’ula O Kai Canoe Club, Maui Cultural Lands, and the Hawaiin Lifeguard Association, who got a whopping $20,000 towards their junior training programs.

2012 Olukai H'olaule'a SUP racers launch from Maliko Gulch. OluKai courtesy photo.

Ekolu Lindsey presented his father’s Ed Lindsey Aloha Award to Community Work Day’s Rhiannon Chandler. The award honors Chandler for, as Lindsey describes it, “her ability to bridge the western world and Hawaiian culture.”

“She brings peace, balance, and humility to all that she touches,” Lindsey concluded.

Around 2:45 p.m. SUP awards were presented, starting with the men’s and women’s open category division winners, followed by the top six men and women elite division winners. The top 5 elite division winners are listed below.

Winners from the Men's elite SUP division. Olukai courtesy photo.

Men’s Elite SUP Top 5

1. Connor Baxter (Maui) 47 minutes, 28 seconds

2. Travis Grant (Australia) 48 minutes, 28 seconds

3. Danny Ching (Hawaii) 48 minutes, 39 seconds

4. Dave Kalama (Maui) – 48 minutes, 46 seconds

5. Jamie Mitchell (Australia) – 48 minutes, 58 seconds

 

Winners from the women's elite SUP division. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

Women’s Elite SUP Top 5

1. Andrea Moller (Haiku) – 56 minutes, 45 seconds

2. Talia Gangini, Haiku 58 minutes, 6 seconds

3. Devin Blish, Makawao 58 minutes, 31 seconds

4. Terrene Black, Australia – 1 hour

5. Jenny Kalbach, Honolulu – 1hour, 1 minute and 1 second

The celebration continued into the early evening with more live Hawaiian entertainment including a performance from special guest Ekolu Kalama, a world champion stand-up-paddler and popular recording artist from Molokai.

The Fourth Annual  OluKai Ho’olaulea continued this afternoon with the OC1 8-mile downwinder from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha Beach Park. Though today was rumored to be one of the most stagnant north shore days of the season, OC1 paddlers enjoyed the same thrills as yesterday’s SUP paddlers, including food and entertainment.

OC1 first place elite division winners are Danny Ching for men’s and Rachel Bruntsch for women’s. Bruntsch also placed 6th in yesterday’s elite SUP division.

Visit page 2 to see more photos from the May 12th Fourth Annual Olukai Ho’olaulea SUP race. 

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