Downwind Month Glides On This Weekend With The Maui Paddleboard Race (But Who’s Gonna Win?)

 
Maui Paddle Championships (4)

The scene at the start of last year’s Maui Paddle Champs (photo credit: Jimmie Hepp)

SIC Downwind Month keeps gliding along this weekend with another big race on Maui. The Maui Paddleboard Race, a slightly new spin on an historic event, is set to be one of the biggest (and probably the funnest) events of Downwind Month.

The 2014 Maui Paddleboard Race is actually a reincarnation of the original “Maui Paddle Championships” that ran from 2006 to 2013. It’s essentially the same event but with new organisers and a slightly new name. Adventure Sports Maui have taken over from John Gangini, who organised one of the biggest and longest-running events in paddleboarding before taking a break this year for health reasons.

As far as the paddlers are concerned this is the same race. It’s on the same weekend it’s always been – the Sunday before Molokai 2 Oahu – and it’ll be held on the exact same course: The world famous Maliko Run. This race is the traditional M2O warm-up event, where the pros get one last hit out before heading to Molokai and the weekend warriors get to be paddle one of the world’s finest downwind runs with a few hundred friends.

But the thing we all wanna know is: Who’s going to win this year?

And the answer is: Could be anybody…

The undisputed King of Maliko, Connor Baxter, has jetted off to Europe for the SUP World Cup in Hamburg, as has his sparring partner Kai Lenny, while Travis Grant is staying put on Oahu to prepare for the big one.

That leaves the door open for the other downwind king on Maui, Dave Kalama. Dave has won this race a few times in the past and will surely start favourite on the weekend. (Update: Dave is in California this weekend for Pipeline To A Cure) However right by his side at the start will be locals Livio Menelau, Kody Kerbox and Jeremy Riggs. Brazil’s Vini Martins was also very impressive in last weekend’s Maui 2 Molokai. Throw in half dozen guys that rarely race outside Maui but paddle the Maliko run on a daily basis and you can expect a pretty darn competitive race in the unlimited class.

For the men’s 14′ class look for the international names, many of which rocked up on Maui with their own boards and have foregone the standard 17 and 18 footers that were built for Maliko, in favour of their production boards. Paul Jackson went close to claiming the 14′ division last weekend and if the bumps are running could be a threat, though the guy who beat him across the channel to Molokai, Josh Riccio, will have something to say about that.

However the one guy I’m most excited to watch on Sunday is Titouan Puyo. Titou is the “World’s #1 Dark Horse” but the guy has won so many races lately I think we can officially drop that label.

Ti2, as he’s affectionately known, has put on a series of extraordinary downwind performances over the past six months, yet had never set foot on Maui before yesterday. How quickly he can acclimatise and which board he chooses will determine his spot at the finish, but I’ve seen few paddlers better at reading the bumps than this humble Frenchman, so keep an eye out for his name near the top of the results sheet on Sunday afternoon.

As for the women we can expect another unlimited battle between Andrea Moller and the woman who upset her last weekend, Devin Blish. Andrea is the “Downwind Queen” who rarely loses on Maui. The Brazilian-turned-Maui local won the two Maliko races held during “Mini Downwind Month” in May (Paddle Imua and OluKai) and this stretch of water is literally in her backyard. If the bumps are running I can’t see any of the women (and not even many of the men) hitting the harbor before Andrea. In the battle of the 14 footers, I’d look for Angie Jackson, who took out the 14′ division at M2M last weekend.

Having said all that, I’m pretty sure there will be a bunch of local dark horses and a few international names jetting in at the last moment to cause some upsets.

This is Downwind Month. There’s a lot of talent on Maui right now. It could be anybody’s race. One thing’s for sure though: If the wind is blowing, it’s gonna be a hell of a lotta fun no matter where you finish.

We’ll be on Maui for the race and will have results as they happen on Sunday afternoon Hawaiian time.


SIC Downwind Month