The Women of Molokai 2 Oahu
The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships is a 32-mile open ocean paddleboard race between the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai and Oahu. This race features the best stand up paddlers and traditional prone paddlers out there. I remember following this race when I was new into the sport of paddling, seeing Jamie Mitchell, Jordan Mercer, and all the other legends paddling, and I it was only in my wildest dreams to be able to cross this channel.
Fast-forward five years to 2016 and I was on the verge of my second crossing. Having raced in Molokai 2 Oahu once before I somewhat knew what I was getting myself into, but the thing about this race is that you can never predict what this channel will throw at you. The race becomes so much more than just a competition… but an ADVENTURE… and soaking every moment up of this EXPERIENCE is what it is all about.
I want to focus on the amazing women who competed in the race this year. Although the large majority of competitors are men in this race, the caliber of the small number of women competitors is just incredible. These are the women who I not only compete against, but the women who I look up to and the women who inspire me to be the best paddler and PERSON I can be.
The group of ladies who competed directly against me this year in the stock paddleboard division (12 foot traditional prone paddleboard) was probably the most competitive group I have ever paddled against. Abby Brown (only 18 years of age!) came away victorious this year, and what a performance she had. This was her first crossing and she became one of the few who have won this race in their first crossings. Abby inspired me this year, and I know she has a very bright future ahead of her as she paddles from her heart! There was also the champion from last year Colleen Tessler who pushed me to the very end of the race and is always ready to give her very best in these big races. And then we have DJ, our paddle mom, who continues to amaze me and was one of the women who inspired me to take paddling to the next level and compete in these marathon crossings. During this trip I also became very good friends with Jolyn rep and ambassador Robin Lang who also competed in the stock division. She hails from Virginia Beach and doesn’t let the cold winters deter her from training her butt off for this race. She is incredibly passionate about promoting not only Jolyn as a swimwear company, but as a brand that inspires women to pursue their dreams and passions. She lives directly by this motto, and am proud to call her one of my good friends and Jolyn teammates.
Then you have Jordan Mercer who has showed dominance in the paddleboard world, winning her 6th title this year in the unlimited paddleboard division. Jordan is someone I have looked up to for many years now, and her unparalleled determination and drive is extremely admirable. She has set the bar high for all the girls in the paddling world, and keeps us all working hard and striving to be our best. Liz Pluimers, one of the most legendary Surf Ironwomen from Australia, also showed us that anything you put your mind to is possible. She not only completed Molokai 2 Oahu on a paddleboard, but just a month before crossed the channel on a surf ski. Unbelievable! And then there is Kanesa Duncan Seraphin who is the pioneer of women’s paddleboarding. She has been racing in Molokai for more than a decade, and her continued presence in the race even as a new mom, is incredible. Also working her butt off was Louise Aitken from New Zealand who gave it her absolute all in those 32 miles.
In addition to the women who I share traditional paddling with, are the women who raced on stand up paddleboards. Although these ladies are racing on a different craft, they share the common passion for the ocean and also the desire to push their bodies and minds to the limit. German paddleboard phenom Sonja Honscheid won the overall title (almost breaking 5 hours!) followed by Annabel Anderson and Terrene Black. No challenge is too arduous for these ladies and paddling 32 miles in the incredibly dynamic Hawaiian waters on a stand up paddleboard is one that I can hardly wrap my head around. Although I do not know the ladies in the stand up paddleboard world as well as those in the prone world, these women deserve a shout out as well. Lena Guimaraes, Amy Lawson Woodward, Victoria Burgess, Siri Schubert, and Tomoe Yasu all successfully crossed the channel on unlimited stand up paddleboards. Fellow San Diego local and friend Kerstin Oullet took on the channel on a stock stand up paddleboard. Even having a board a few feet shorter than everyone else did not stop her.
Being surrounded by these women shows me that nothing is impossible with hard work, passion, grit, and determination.
THESE ARE THE WOMEN WHO INSPIRE ME.
STAY STRONG and CHARGE ON
(All photography done by Jiana Lazarus)