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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 19, 2006

Paddlers facing 32 tough miles alone

 •  Proposed league hopes to boost play in Hawai'i

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

If recent history is any indication, Maui's Kai Bartlett and Kailua's Karel Tresnak Jr. are the paddlers to chase in the one-person canoe division of the Kona Brewing Co. Moloka'i Challenge World Championship on Sunday.

The 32-mile race from Kaluako'i Beach, Moloka'i, to Koko Marina, O'ahu, is considered the world championship of long-distance solo paddling for surfskis and one-person canoes.

Tresnak and Bartlett are the only two paddlers to win the one-person canoe division since 1999.

Tresnak has won it a record five times (1999, 2000, '01, '03 and '04). Bartlett set the course record of 3 hours, 42 minutes, 37 seconds in 2002, and also won it last year.

"I'm sure a lot of people are looking at us as the top two guys," Tresnak said. "But there's so many good guys now. And I always say this is the race where anything can happen."

Tresnak should know. He was leading last year's race when his canoe cracked while surfing on a wave. He was forced to withdraw, and Bartlett went on to win the race.

"It was a bummer because I was having so much fun; there was some good surf," Tresnak said. "But it just goes to show, when that place wants to crush you, it'll crush you whenever it wants."

Because Bartlett lives on Maui and Tresnak is on O'ahu, they have met in only one other solo race this season, with Bartlett winning the Maui-to-Moloka'i race in April.

Tresnak and partner Nate Hendricks beat Bartlett and Patrick Dolan in a relay race from Moloka'i to O'ahu two weeks ago, but Sunday's race is strictly a solo endeavor.

"No question, this is the big one," Tresnak said. "All the training, and all the other races are to prepare you for this one."

Based on earlier races this season, Manny Kulukulualani has emerged as a legitimate threat to the favorites. He placed second to Bartlett in the Maui-to-Moloka'i race, and Tresnak was third.

"I wouldn't say I've been doing any different training from what I've been doing the last few seasons," Kulukulualani said. "But wanting to hang with those two guys definitely helped me. At first, it was like a shock just to be near them, because everybody knows those are the two guys to look at."

Among the contenders in the one-person canoe division are Mike Judd, Danny Ching, Patrick Dolan and Travis Grant.

"I think it's tough for (Bartlett and Tresnak) because they have to live up to what they accomplished so far," Kulukulualani said. "But that takes the pressure off us. The rest of us are underdogs."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.