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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2001

Familiar faces rule in paddling

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Three familiar champions and one new winner shared the spotlight at the Kanaka I Kai Ka/Eyecatcher Moloka'i Challenge yesterday.

Men's kayak division winner Dean Gardiner heads to the finish of the Kanaka I Kai Ka/Eyecatcher Moloka'i Challenge.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Dean Gardiner won the men's kayak division for the eighth time, while Karel Tresnak Jr. took the men's canoe division for the third consecutive year.

Among the women, Kelly Fey continued her amazing streak with another record-setting performance. She won the women's canoe division for the second consecutive year after six straight years as the top female kayaker from 1994-99.

Nicole Pedersen won the women's kayak division for the first time. The event is considered the world championship of solo ocean paddling.

Light winds, small waves and generally muggy conditions contributed to average times (except for Fey) for the 32-mile race from Kaluako'i Beach, Moloka'i, to the Hawai'i Kai Towne Center. Still, each division had its share of drama.

Men's kayak

Relying on experience over power, Gardiner regained the first-place trophy that eluded him last year.

"I don't think I was the best paddler out there," said the 36-year-old Gardiner, who is a lifeguard in Australia. "I don't think I would have been strong enough to get out (in front) and paddle on my own this year. My plan was to cover whoever got out fast and then try to do something at the end."

He did just that, allowing Tahiti's Lewis Laughlin to control most of the race before making his move down the stretch.

"Basically, I wanted to stay near Lewis and conserve energy for the end," Gardiner said. "But Lewis is so strong, he made me work hard the entire way anyway. I was lucky to catch some fortunate breaks at the end."

For about 27 of the 32 miles, Gardiner and Laughlin paddled virtually side by side. Every time Gardiner pulled ahead by surfing on small waves, Laughlin eventually caught up in the flat water.

Less than five miles from the finish, Laughlin suffered a cramp in his left forearm, which caused him to drop his paddle and flip into the ocean. While swimming after his kayak, his right leg started to cramp also.

"I knew it was over at that point," Laughlin said. "Dean has too much experience and it was too close to the end for me to do anything else."

Still, Gardiner nearly let Laughlin back in the race with an uncharacteristic error. Just off the rocks near Portlock, Gardiner stayed on a wave too long and wound up on dry land for a few seconds.

"That was the stupidest thing I've done in all my years," he said. "I was so hungry for a wave, I stayed with it. I actually had to stand up on the rocks, carry my (kayak) and jump back in the water."

But Laughlin could not make up the difference, finishing 1 minute, 21 seconds behind Gardiner's winning time of 3:35:57. Gardiner's Australian teammates Tim Jacobs (3:39:34) and Tom Woodriff (3:43:51) placed third and fourth, respectively.

It was Gardiner's fifth title in the past six years. South African Oscar Chalupsky, who beat Gardiner last year, did not enter yesterday.

Kala Judd placed fifth overall at 3:45:38 and was the first Hawai'i finisher. Eric Chun was sixth overall and second from Hawai'i in 3:50:45.

"It's been a while since I've been in this kind of shape to be able to compete like this," said Judd, 41. "And it was the kind of day where there was no huge course advantage, so I'm really proud."

Judd said the international paddlers broke away from the field "almost immediately" although he nearly caught them in the surf midway across the Kaiwi Channel.

"I separated myself from the other Hawai'i guys toward the end," he said. "But I couldn't quite catch the next group — those young guys were too fast."

Women's kayak

With no former champions in the field, Pedersen took advantage and led practically from start to finish.

"I guess within the first hour, I pulled ahead," said Pedersen, 32 and a member of the Outrigger Canoe Club. "The other girls were within sight the whole way. But when they went south, I went south; when they went north, I went north."

Her winning time of 4:15:49 was over four minutes faster than runner-up Mary Smolenski's 4:20:25.

Men's canoe

To comprehend how incredible Tresnak's three consecutive titles are, consider this: He is still not yet old enough to sip celebratory champagne.

Well, at least not legally. Tresnak, 20, once again paddled beyond his years to top the division that drew the most entries (33).

"It wasn't the kind of channel I would have liked," he said. "But it was good enough."

Surfing on any wave he could find, Tresnak pulled ahead midway through the race and held off his Lanikai teammates down the stretch. His winning time of 4:52:09 was more than two minutes short of the course record he set last year, but still the second-fastest time in the history of one-person canoes.

Just as impressive, he finished seventh overall, beating most of the kayaks, which are supposedly faster crafts than canoes.

Lanikai paddlers took the top four places: Mike Judd (4:54:35) was second followed by Kai Bartlett (3:55:55) and John Foti (4:02:30).

Judd stayed within sight of Tresnak the entire race, but never got close enough to try any drastic moves. "At the 20-mile mark, I knew I was going for second place," Judd said. "I had to be realistic."

Women's canoe

Once again, Fey was in a class by herself.

Her winning time of 4:43:52 beat the course record she established last year by nearly nine minutes. The second-place finisher, Corina Gage, came in over seven minutes after Fey.

"It's always nice that it turns out that way," said Fey, who holds the women's course record for both kayaks and canoes. "But it's more of a relief for me just to get here safely."

• • •

Final results

Men's kayak

Open: 1, Dean Gardiner, 3:35:57. 2, Lewis Laughlin, 3:37:18. 3, Tim Jacobs, 3:39:34. 4, Tom Woodriff, 3:43:51. 5, Kala Judd, 3:45:38. 18-29: 1, Eric Chun, 3:50:45. 2, David Buck, 3:52:18. 3, Eric Dean, 3:54:53. 4, Damien Dailey, 3:55:18. 5, Steve Kelly, 4:00:01. 6, Glenn Eldridge, 4:02:06. 7, Takuji Arakai, 4:03:36. 8, Doug Borton, 4:12:54. 9, Daniel Tsukayama, 4:13:53. 10, Kazunori Sato, 4:26:21. 11, Kenataro Matsuo, 5:36:12. 30-39: 1, Darcy Price, 3:52:53. 2, Wyatt Jones, 4:00:04. 3, Timothy Twigg-Smith, 4:06:07. 4, Brian Mulvaney, 4:15:00. 5, Richard Nuu, 4:20:16. 6, Jim Ross, 4:36:45. 7, Shayne Takemoto, 4:42:20. 8, Koh Shinohara, 5:09:09. 40-49: 1, Rod Taylor, 3:57:22. 2, John Hoogsteden, 4:13:54. 3, Charles Wilkie, 4:24:02. 4, Wayne German, 4:31:01. 5, Blane Chong, 4:45:09. 6, John Dixon, 4:55:12. 7, Arthur Chokalis, 4:55:37. 60-over: 1, Brian Graber, 4:38:42.

Women's kayak

Open: 1, Nicole Pedersen, 4:15:49. 2, Mary Smolenski, 4:20:25. 3, Megan Harrington, 4:22:25. 4, Maggie Twigg-Smith, 4:27:44. 5, Christy Borton, 4:39:07.

Men's canoe

Open: 1, Karel Tresnak Jr., 3:52:09. 2, Mike Judd, 3:54:35. 3, Kai Bartlett, 3:55:55. 4, John Foti, 4:02:30. 5, Kealii Paiaina, 4:03:21. 18-29: 1, Manny Kulukulualani, 4:11:57. 2, Tapa Worthington, 4:15:38. 3, Peter Olson, 4:21:12. 4, Brian Carter, 4:33:55. 5, Cana Day, 4:40:48. 30-39: 1, Aaron Napoleon, 4:04:40. 2, Thibert Lussiaa, 4:06:21. 3, Jim Foti, 4:06:35. 4, Kalani Irvine, 4:09:07. 5, Billy Balding, 4:09:34. 6, Scott Jones, 4:13:57. 7, Afa Tuaolo, 4:17:33. 8, Byron Ho, 4:36:17. 9, George Leslie, 4:40:16. 10, Patrick Kaawaloa, 4:43:53. 11, Rick Hobson, 5:01:02. 12, Douglas Miller, 5:22:55. 40-49: 1, Steve Cole, 4:10:15. 2, Bruce Lukas, 4:21:55. 3, Peter Roney, 4:32:25. 4, Fred Delos Santos, 4:40:33. 5, Bradford Cole, 5:07:23. 6, Curtis Hawkins, 5:48:41. 50-59: 1, Tom Conner, 4:23:06. 2, Kawika Goodale, 4:35:47. 3, Jacques Blais, 5:12:58. 4, Kern Rogerson, 5:46:31. 60-over: 1, Joseph Napoleon, 4:46:11.

Women's canoe

Open: 1, Kelly Fey, 4:43:52. 2, Corina Gage, 4:51:10. 3, Megan Clark, 4:56:29. 40-49: 1, Marjorie Kawaiaea, 5:03:30. 2, Torrey Goodman, 5:15:50.