MOLOKAI-2-OAHU: WORLD’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS RACE IS CANCELLED

 


 
The 2020 edition of the world’s most prestigious race, the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships (or just “Molokai” as it’s affectionately known) has officially been cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Athletes were informed last night and the official word got released a short time ago on the Molokai Facebook and Insta.

Highlighting just how dramatic the coronavirus’ impact on our sport has been, Molokai has never been cancelled despite running for nearly a quarter of a century (this would have been the 24th annual edition). And while the race was still exactly four months away (26 July), the decision to cancel this year’s event has seemed increasingly inevitable over the past week as the global sporting world has shut down to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Even if event restrictions and social distancing rules are relaxed by July (and that’s a big *if*) it’s likely that travel restrictions will still be in place. Molokai famously attracts paddlers from all around the world, with a huge contingent of Australians in particular.

Today’s announcement is sad news, but it will also be somewhat of a relief to the athletes who have been spun into limbo by the virus — Molokai requires an extreme level of logistical planning (and training), so it was definitely the right call to make the call early. The good news is, Molokai will still go ahead in some form: The race will now be virtual, with a shortened 20-mile time trial on offer for anyone around the world to participate.

Terrene Black claimed her third Molokai title in 2019 (photo: Skyla Rayner)

The 32-mile open-ocean crossing between the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Oahu is one of the toughest and most iconic challenges in the world of both prone and stand-up paddleboarding. Since the race began in 1997, the Ka’iwi Channel (aka the “Channel of Bones”) has become a proving ground and ultimate test of strength, endurance, skill and determination.

The defending SUP champions are three-time winner and current race record-holder Terrene Black and James Casey, both from Australia, while past heroes include 3x queen Sonni Honscheid, Andrea Moller, Penelope Strickland, 4x men’s champion Travis Grant, 3x winner Connor Baxter, Kai Lenny, Dave Kalama and stock-class superstar Josh Riccio. The event introduced foiling alongside the traditional prone and SUP divisions two years ago, with Kai Lenny taking both titles and Annie Reickert becoming the first woman to fly across the channel.

Here’s the official announcement:

To our M2O family,

We are thinking of each and every one of you in this extraordinary time in our lives.

We appreciate the recent emails inquiring about the status of this year’s M2O and of course the support for our team.

Initially, we had hoped that the July race date would be unaffected by the COVID-19 crisis allowing all of you to travel and train safely in lead up to the event. Sadly, a decision was made to cancel the 2020 edition of the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard.

We have been watching the effects of the COVID-19 globally, monitoring the travel restrictions, self-quarantine requirements, the economic impact, and beach closures.
It’s been a delicate balance between taking necessary precautions and remaining calm throughout this uncertain time. From your recent emails and inquiries, we were assured that so many of you share the same thoughts and concerns.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” M. Beattie

We hope this relieves everyone with so much uncertainty leading into the season. We can’t wait to shift gears and start celebrating and sharing your time on the water on social.

We will be creating a 2020 Virtual Edition of the M2O and opening this unique opportunity to anyone interested in being a part of the 20 mile paddle from anywhere in the world. The window to paddle the 20 miles will still take place the last weekend in July. Participants in the virtual race will receive a race jersey, race t-shirt and official race mug with more details to be announced along with registration info early next month.

Many of you use the M2O race to raise funds and awareness for so many global causes. We hope that this virtual option continues to allow you all to push forward on all fronts.

Please get in touch if you have any questions, need assistance or just want a hug in person or from a distance 🌺

I asked the defending champ James “Jimmy” Casey for his reaction to the cancellation. The Australian famously dedicated last year’s victory to his ill father, who is battling brain cancer, while Jimmy also used the event to help raise tens of thousands of dollars for cancer charities.

The ocean master was devastated but not surprised by the news, though he still kept his sense of humour…

I’m gutted mate, for a number of reasons but mainly because it’s the one race I put everything into each year. Lots of emotions surrounding that race for me. So for it to be cancelled, while it makes perfect sense (seemed to be a question of “when,” not “if”), it really makes me sad. On the plus side, I guess I’m the reigning champ for another year haha

With the fall of Molokai, the international race season is now effectively on hold until August, which means our new “firewall” becomes the Gorge Paddle Challenge in Oregon. The athletes I spoke to this morning had instantly begun wondering whether or not Hood River will still run this year — that event is set for 15/16 August, and right now it’s probably a 50/50 chance.

But despite half the season being cancelled or postponed, many paddlers are using the opportunity to hit pause, refresh and focus on other things for a change. I spoke with Connor Baxter – who just welcomed his first child into the world – and he told me that 2020 will be the most time he’s spent at home on Maui in any of the past 15 years (and he’s only 25-years-old). Fiona Wylde was similarly optimistic about the delay, telling me she hasn’t had this much time to pursue other projects since leaving high school five years ago. Casper Steinfath, meanwhile, has started gardening at home in Denmark.

So while it’s a huge bummer that Molokai is gone, and the wider crisis of the coronavirus pandemic is an outright tragedy, there will be many silver linings and positives to come out of this.

Keep following Molokai-2-Oahu on Facebook to stay updated on the new “Virtual M2O” and start crossing your fingers that we can all meet up at the Gorge in August for a big “back on the water” party…