Hawaii 2018 is one to remember for me. It all started on the Tuesday before the race. The longest Tuesday ever.  I finished work at noon on Tuesday and landed in Hawaii at 1130am on the same Tuesday. Anyhow, we flew into Hawaii got a car and went straight to Koko Head. Llani and I thought this would be the best way to knock the jetlag out of us. It did come at a price with some sore legs after climbing 1000 steps up an old track but I think it did the trick.

Wednesday afternoon was spent having a dinner with around 100 people where Shaw and Partners and OceanPaddler (Earl and Dean) announced that the Australian Ocean Racing Series was going to be the biggest it has ever been with two races (20 Beaches and The Doctor) were to have a $10,000 prize for the first across the line at each. HUGE for the sport and this will see so many competitors from all around the world come to our backyard in Australia to race for some real prize money. You could feel the atmosphere changed in the room and the sport grew then and there. People were changing their plans for their summer over the dinner to ensure they would make these races.

The rest of the week was spent hanging out in Waikiki, touring the North Shore, telling jokes and praying for wind (which took most of the time). The predictions were looking favourable and come Sunday morning the wind was well and truly in. It was the first time in the six attempts at the race where I had seen the palm trees swaying at the start line. Hectic. All was set on the ski, Llani met Ian on the escort boat who offered her a beer or mimosa (owner of Lei Lei’s on the North Shore) and we were off.

My game plan was to set out moderate and build into the runs as the race went on. I find when you get larger swells in the bigger winds you can chase too hard from the start and run out of gas quickly. This happens especially quick in a race scenario. The juices are flowing and you never want to get dropped. The competitor within everyone gets the best of most people’s ability and you can blow up before your race has properly started. My aim was to go 10km at around the 4minute km pace which I was right on until about 8kms. Hank by then had taken around a 250m lead over the rest of the field and I did start to second guess my plans. Km 9 and 10 were that bit quicker and the race to catch was on.

The new plan was to catch Hank over the next 10km. The Garmin was showing a pace which was speeding up assisted by the increasing winds and being further off the coast of Molokai. I was right next to him by the 20km mark and Jasper pulled right into the picture also. He was further south, Hank in the middle and I had a slightly northern line. From there, although the pace was up and we were racing it must have seemed a little boring on the live stream as we could not shake each other. It seemed as though when I had a good km so did the others and when I had a bad one so did they. It is an amazing thing when racing as you seem to be dictated by the people around you in the pace you paddle. Lucky for all of us out there on this particular day, it was a really good pace and it seemed the 21 year old record was about to come to an end.

As you approach the 40km mark of a race such as Molokai you start to think some amazing things. The thoughts of desperation yet you need to keep controlled. “Don’t lose it from here, too many early mornings training”. “Stupid paddles were done for this moment”. “Llani and mum have dropped you down the coast every weekend for three months and you are going to let them down?” “Do it for the people that support you”. “Don’t hit the rocks… again”.

My 44th km was my fastest km out in the channel that day with a 3:20 and my 45th km was a 3:21. I think that is where I got my 30 seconds on Hank and Jasper. From there it was pure desperation to the wall. China Wall is a scary place when the swell is up but lucky for me this year it looked to be high tide and not too much swell coming through. It was a hard 12 minute paddle in the dead flat and offshore winds to the finish line. I did my best to not look over my shoulder as I paddled in this part of the race knowing I had some of the best marathon paddlers in the world chasing me down. The first time I took a glimpse was coming into the harbour where I saw I had around 100m. That is the only time in the 3 hour 15minute race that I allowed myself to relax. Looking at some of the footage from the race shows the pure relief that I crossed the line in front. Absolute stoke. There was no big claim as I was too ruined and happy that I was able to take out this iconic race once more. The best part is it was in record time beating the old race record of 3 hours 21 previously held by a good mate, hero in paddling and sponsor, Dean Gardiner.

This is the first international race of the 2018 season and it is looking to be a huge season internationally and locally. Next up for me is Mauritius in July where I will once again race majority of the South African contingent. No Australian has ever won over there so that is definitely a goal of mine heading over.

Thank you