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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 18, 2002

Canoes, surfskis race from Kaluako'i to Hawai'i Kai

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

 •  WHAT: Outrigger/Eyecatcher 2002 World Championship Solo Canoe and Surfski Race

WHERE: 32-mile course starts at Kaluako'i Beach, Moloka'i, and finishes at Hawai'i Kai Towne Center

WHEN: Tomorrow, 8 a.m. start; first finishers expected around 11:15 a.m.

WHO: Around 100 top international paddlers on one-person surfskis and one-person canoes

Great conditions are expected for tomorrow's Outrigger/ Eyecatcher 2002 World Championship of Solo Canoe and Surfski Race.

Great paddlers, too.

That combination should make for exciting — if not record-breaking — finishes in the Moloka'i-to-O'ahu race.

Close to 100 paddlers are expected to compete in the race, which travels 32 miles from Kaluako'i Beach, Moloka'i, to the Hawai'i Kai Towne Center. Favorable trade winds and ocean tides are expected.

The race will feature separate divisions for one-person surfskis and one-person canoes for men and women.

"It's up for grabs," paddler Mike Judd said of the men's canoe division, which will be the largest division in the event. "It's one of those years where you truly don't know what's going to happen."

Three-time defending men's canoe champion Karel Tresnak Jr. is not entered this year because he is still in classes at the University of Colorado.

In his absence, there is no clear-cut favorite in the men's canoe division. Judd, Kai Bartlett, Maui Kjeldsen, Aaron Napoleon and Thibert Lussiaa have all won regular-season races leading up to tomorrow's event.

Other contenders include Jim Foti, Kea Paiaina and Andrew Penny. An intriguing entry is Giovanni DeFrancesco from Rome, Italy. He is the first European paddler to ever attempt the race.

"Personally, I wish Karel was here so we could all race against him," Judd said. "But he's not here, so there's guaranteed to be a new winner and a lot of guys want it."

While the canoe division will be dominated by Hawai'i paddlers, the men's surfski division should be controlled by international competitors.

In particular, Dean Gardiner will once again lead a strong contingent of Australian entries. Gardiner owns a record eight Moloka'i championships, including last year's.

Lewis Laughlin of Tahiti, who placed a close second to Gardiner last year, is also considered one of the top contenders.

Brian Rocheleau of Hawai'i Kai is considered the top local entry, although tomorrow will be his first try at crossing the Kaiwi Channel solo.

"I feel like I'm as prepared as can be," said Rocheleau, 25. "It would be nice to be up there in the lead pack with Dean Gardiner and those other guys, but I'm kind of hoping just to finish and have a good time."

No Hawai'i paddler has won the men's surfski division since 1978.

In the women's canoe division, Kelly Fey of Hawai'i Kai will take an unprecedented eight-year winning streak into tomorrow's race. Fey won the women's surfski division for six consecutive years from 1992-99. She switched to the canoe division in 2000, and has won that division the last two years.

Her strongest competition should come from Maui's Lauren Spalding, who has already defeated Fey in a regular-season race this year. However, Spalding is entering the Moloka'i race for the first time. Other contenders include Noe Sawyer of Kaua'i and Corinna Gage of New Zealand.

The women's surfski race has no established favorite. Defending champion Nicole Pedersen and Megan Harrington are the top Hawai'i entries.