Molokaʻi-2-Oʻahu Paddleboard World Championships returns after 3 year pandemic pause
After a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the 24th edition of the Molokaʻi-2-Oʻahu Paddleboard World Championships or M2O, returns to the Kaʻiwi Channel with an international field on Sunday, July 30, 2023.
Only 250 men and women qualify to compete in the 32-mile downwind challenge, competing in the disciplines of prone paddleboard, stand-up paddleboard, SUP Foil and Wing Foil.
The event is presented by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority through the Signature Events Program
“We are so excited by the response and momentum for our return to racing this year,” said Mike Takahashi, the race director and founder of the event. “Over half of the athletes entered are first time entrants, mostly in the prone category, which is a testament to the renewed growth in the sport. The FOIL divisions have offered M2O new opportunities with so many of our SUP athletes crossing over. Can’t wait to get back in the channel to witness some great racing.”
Prone Paddleboard Race
Prone paddleboarding is experiencing a resurgence at this year’s M2O. Leading the men’s field is Australian Stewart McLachlan, 35, who has won M2O four times in the stock category.
McLachlan will challenge countryman Campbell Guthrie, 24, in this year’s unlimited paddleboard category, where athletes paddle longer, sleeker vessels compared to a stock paddleboard. Guthrie was the 2019 runner up in the stock category at M2O.
The 2021 Catalina Classic winner, 27-year-old Scott Clausen from Surfside, California enters the unlimited race. This will be Clausen’s first attempt at M2O.
At the age of 60, Mick DiBetta (AUS), M2O champion from 1997, will compete in his 23rd M2O in the unlimited category. Matt Sack, an esteemed North Shore lifeguard, is the only athlete to compete solo every year the race has been held.
McLachlan’s move to unlimited division leaves the stock paddleboard field open for emerging talents. Top performances at M2O have been recorded by Australian Callum Sutton, 22, and Kyle Smith, 40, from California.
The majority of men’s stock race is comprised of first timers to M2O like Toa Pere. The 14-year-old comes from a family of excellent paddleboards, and Pere has been excelling in Hawaii’s downwind races like the M2O Bluewater Classic.
In the women’s races, Australian Lizzie Welborn is the lone competitor in the unlimited category. If conditions are favorable, the 24-year-old’s race against the clock will be fueled by her experience as a three-time M2O competitor and the possibility of breaking countrywoman Harriet Brown’s record for 4 hours, 50 minutes, 58 seconds. Welborn finished second to Brown in her past three races at M2O.
In the stock race, Liz Hunter, Allison Schillinger and Katrina Madill are the odds-on favorites. This year’s race will be the first attempt at M2O for all three athletes. Hunter, 36, from Imperial Beach, California arrives as a three-time champion at the Catalina Classic.
Stand Up Paddleboard Race
SUP Phenom Mo Freitas, 26, from Hawaiʻi returns to M2O in the unlimited category after a podium finish in the 2019 stock race. Yusuke Hyogo from Japan and Italy’s Tommaso Pampinella will challenge for top honors. Kosuke had a dominating win at the recent Moloka‘i Holokai, which crosses the Pailolo Channel between the islands of Moloka‘i and Maui.
Seasoned M2O athlete and hailing from Hawai‘i Kiyomi Sheppard, 50, will take her board for a joy ride as she will paddle unchallenged in the stock SUP race.
Maui’s Kai Lenny, 30, leads the men’s field in the foil discipline after dominating the 2018 and 2019 editions of M2O. Australian James Casey, 30, the reigning M2O SUP champion, will cross over to foil, competing against the 2019 foil runner up Jeffrey Spencer, 22, from Hawai‘i.
Adding to the foil race are the top three finishers from the recent Moloka‘i Holokai. Kane De Wilde, 22, bested Andrew Gibbons, 24, by just 37 seconds in the 27-mile race. Edoardo Tanas, 22, from Italy finished third, just seconds behind Gibbons.
In the women’s foil race, Annie Reickert, 22, returns to defend her title from 2019, Reickert will be up against M2O SUP champion Andrea Moller who knows the channel well. Included in this mix is Olivia Pana, 32, from France and youngster Gabriella Bella, 19, from Hawai‘i who each finished second and third respectively in this year’s Moloka‘i Holokai.
The Wing Foil race is a new discipline to M2O this year with 18 Foilers, a larger field than the entire Foil field in 2019. Zane Schweitzer, 32, returns to the channel in a new category after years of racing experience in the Ka‘iwi channel on SUP. The winged race features teenagers Finn Spencer, 19, and Bobo Gallagher, 14.
The women’s Wing Foil division will be led by 46-year-old Nani Dalene. Dalane is coming off a solid performance at the Moloka‘i Holokai and a win at the M2O Bluewater Classic last summer.
Race Day Schedule – Sunday July 30, 2023
Start: Kepuhi Beach Area, Moloka‘i
7:30 a.m.: Solo and Team Paddleboard (Prone) Start
8 a.m.: Solo and Team SUP Start
9:30 a.m.: Solo and Team Foil and Wing Start
* All start times are subject to change
Finish: Maunalua Bay Beach Park, Oʻahu
10 a.m. Event Expo Opens
11:30 a.m. Top finishers expected at finish.
Founded in 1997, M2O has grown from a grassroots challenge for the legendary lifeguards of O‘ahu to the premiere event in the sport of paddleboarding. The race annually crowns world champions in the two disciplines of traditional (prone) and stand-up (SUP) paddleboarding.
In 2018, a hydrofoil division was added to welcome the evolution of technology in the SUP.
Connecting the islands of Moloka‘i and O‘ahu, the 32-mile race crosses the Ka‘iwi Channel, also known as the Moloka‘i Channel and Channel of Bones. Men and women from more than 20 countries will face strong currents as they navigate the fastest downwind route over one of the most beautiful and powerful channels in the world.
Athletes rid mid-channel waves that can crest more than 12 feet and carry paddlers hundreds of meters.
M2O starts in Kepuhi Bay on the northwest shore of Moloka‘i and finishes in Maunalua Bay on the southeast shore of O‘ahu. “The annual race is a deeply personal experience, challenging every paddler’s physical and mental endurance. Every finisher experiences an individual championship,” according to event organizers.
M2O is presented by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority with additional support from Spartan, Duke’s Waikiki, Kona Brewing Company, Futures Fins, Pauwela Beverage Company, dryrobe®, Talis Crew, Surftech, Bark Paddleboards, Ocean Paddler, DotVison, and Fin Film Company.
A complete start list is available at Molokai2Oahu.com. Live satellite tracking of athletes and results will be available at Molokai2Oahu.com.