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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cross-training boon to Mitchell

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jamie Mitchell

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What: 32-mile paddleboard race across the Kaiwi Channel

Where: Start at Kaluako'i Beach, Moloka'i; finish at Maunalua Bay, O'ahu

When: Tomorrow, 7:30 a.m. start; first finishers expected around 12:30 p.m.

Divisions: Most of the elite paddlers will enter the unlimited division, which is for boards of any size and shape. There is also a stock division, which is for identical 12-foot boards. Paddlers can enter solo or as a two-person relay team.

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Australia's Jamie Mitchell is used to receiving a reward at the end of his paddling.

In the winter, his reward is the exhilarating rush he feels while surfing down a 25-foot wave.

In the summer, his reward is being called the best paddleboarder in the world.

"The paddling I do in the summer prepares me for the winter surf, and then the winter surf prepares me for the summer paddling," Mitchell said. "It works out perfect."

When it comes to the Quiksilveredition Moloka'i to O'ahu Paddleboard Race, Mitchell has been perfect for the past four years.

He will be seeking an unprecedented fifth consecutive title tomorrow. The 32-mile race across the Kaiwi Channel is considered the world championship of long-distance paddleboard racing.

"That channel is something you can never master," said Mitchell, 29. "I feel like my experience is a key factor, but I never feel like I have it wired. Every year, it's a new challenge."

A paddleboard is a streamlined surfboard that is powered only by arm strokes, much like paddling a surfboard. The Moloka'i Race is a grueling endeavor in the sport that could take a champion like Mitchell anywhere from five to six hours to complete.

"You really have to dedicate yourself if you want to do this race," he said. "But I try to find ways to make it fun."

To help overcome the obstacles, Mitchell has become a part-time resident on O'ahu's North Shore for the past five years.

Each winter, he spends three months surfing the giant waves off Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach.

"I'm addicted to surfing the big waves now," he said. "And you really have to be a strong paddler to get into the waves at a place like Waimea Bay, so that only helps me."

In the summer, he spends at least a month paddleboarding around O'ahu in preparation for the Moloka'i Race.

"It's like this is my second home, I spend so much time here," Mitchell said. "And I have so many people to thank for making it possible. The people here really welcomed me in and make me want to come back as often as I can."

At least two new challengers are in the field this year.

Fellow Australian Zane Holmes is a champion waterman who has won several "life-saving" competitions in Australia. Holmes, 25, is entering the Moloka'i Race for the first time.

"I do a little bit of everything, from paddleboarding to the (surfski) to swimming," Holmes said. "So this race is certainly different from what I normally do. But I never enter a race to come in second. I'm definitely here because I want to win it."

California's Eric Meech won the stock board division last year, but is entering the open unlimited board division this year.

Most of the elite competitors are in the unlimited division, which allows for boards of any size. In the stock division, each paddler must use an identical 12-foot board.

In the women's division, a champion has already been determined since Honolulu's Kanesa Duncan is the only entry.

"There's the clock to race against," she said. "But I also have some guys who are always close to me in races, and I'm going to try and chase them down."

Duncan won the female division four of the past five years, but always on a stock board. She will try a 16-foot unlimited board tomorrow.

"It feels like a totally different style of paddling," she said. "It requires a little more strength. But that gives me something else to shoot for."


Chris Owens of O'ahu's North Shore will paddle with his son, C.J., in the team relay division. It is part of Chris Owens' effort to paddleboard across all the ocean channels from the Big Island to Kaua'i. He has already crossed the channels from the Big Island to Maui, Maui to Lana'i, Maui to Moloka'i, and O'ahu to Kaua'i.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.