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5th Annual Naish Paddle Championships

I am now back, and partially recovered from competing in the 5th Annual Naish Paddle Championship in Maui, HI.
The race took place on Sunday, July 18 and ran approximately 10 miles from Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor.

I arrived on Wednesday night and tried to get as much sleep as possible.
Thursday morning I went to the Naish Hawaii offices and picked up the loaner Naish Glide 14′ board I would be using.
I then drove up to Maliko Gulch to check out the start area.
Since I didn’t have a ride set up that day, I went for an 8 km training paddle – half up wind and half back down.
While it was a hard paddle into the wind – the swells were only 2 to 3 feet and i was either hitting them straight on, or riding them back, so it was quite manageable.
I then drove back down to the finish area where I met up with Kelly who runs a shuttle service and I set up a time for a ride from the finish area up to the start for Friday so I could practice the course.

The wind on Friday was side / on shore – so that meant that 99.99% of my 2:16 paddle was done on the left side of the board.
The swells were in the 4 to 8 foot size from top to bottom.
I fell in 40 to 50 times and at times was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.

I few locals would come past me during the run and ask if I was okay. I nodded I was fine, tried to look like I had a clue, and in a flash they would catch a swell and disappear.

I took Saturday “off” and tried to relax and hydrate as much as possible.

Sunday came early as I had to be at the finish area for my shuttle ride by 9:00 AM.
Upon entering the Maliko Gulch area it became evident that this was a big time event.
Within an hour of my arrival over 200 paddlers had gathered.

After a traditional Hawaiian prayer ceremony – the race was underway at 1:00 PM.
The first to leave the protected waters of the gulch were the prone paddlers, followed by the Unlimited SUP class, then the 14′ fixed rudder SUP class (Me) and finally the 12’6″ stock SUP class.

While the wind was similar to Friday, being cross and slightly from behind – the swells were much larger - reaching up to 10 feet and above much of the time.
I tried to head out to sea a little farther (following everyone else) this time and once past the first few miles of head wind and side swell the run became “slightly” easier. I did managed to catch several “glides” where you would accelerate from 7 kmh to 15 kmh in a second – all while trying to then get to the back of the board so the nose would not spear into the swell in front.
Again, the locals made it look easy and I was passed and left to fend for myself near the back of the pack.
After falling many times, getting very frustrated with myself, wanting to quit, running out of water and basically wondering why I just paid a lot of money to fly all the way to Hawaii and do this to myself – – I was about 2 miles from the finish when a sea turtle the size of a VW Bug hood popped up 5 feet in front of me. I had to stop paddling or I would have hit it with my paddle as we passed each other. Seeing the turtle snapped me back into the present I regained my composure and paddled for the finish.
As soon as I reached the flat water of the harbor – my mind relaxed, my body gave out and I “chummed” the water several times with what ever was left in my stomach.
Seeing the finish I then put my head down and paddled with all my might – finishing with a time of 2:05:56 – in 185th place out of 230 entries.

While it was the hardest physical thing I have ever done, it was a fantastic experience and I am glad I went.
Plus I got a really cool T-Shirt for finishing, and I can proudly state that I was the 1st place Canadian!

Thanks to all the people from Naish for helping me and to all the locals who made it look so easy – now I know what I need to work on for next year.