First attempt is huge success
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By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Clint Pretorius' plan was to learn from the best in yesterday's Kona Brewing Co. Moloka'i Challenge World Championships.
Instead, he beat the best to win the surfski division of the prestigious Moloka'i-to-O'ahu race.
Pretorius completed the 32-mile course from Kaluako'i Beach, Moloka'i, to Koko Marina, O'ahu, in 3 hours, 22 minutes, 14 seconds.
It was the third-fastest winning time in the 31-year history of the race, and 48 seconds short of the course record.
"I just managed to have the race of my life," said Pretorius, who is 21 and from Durban, South Africa.
Making it more impressive, it was his first attempt at the Moloka'i Challenge.
Because of his inexperience, Pretorius wanted to follow veteran Oscar Chalupsky across the Kaiwi Channel. Chalupsky, who is 43 and also from South Africa, owns a record 11 Moloka'i Challenge championships.
"I thought it was really cool because I thought I could learn from him and ride the (wave) runs with him," Pretorius said. "That gave me a boost just being next to him and knowing I could actually hang in there and do well."
Pretorius and Chalupsky paddled side-by-side at the front of the pack for virtually the entire course.
Chalupsky said he agreed to maintain a proper course as long as Pretorius kept an eye out for approaching paddlers.
"We worked together, and chatted away," Chalupsky said. "It was very easy the whole way."
Pretorius took the lead with fewer than three miles to go, and then held off a final charge from Chalupsky.
"Oscar was reeling me in right at the end there," Pretorius said. "Then I managed to hold on to a wave, which managed to pull me just in front."
Chalupsky finished second with a time of 3:22:42 — 28 seconds behind Pretorius.
Chalupsky said he made "a slight tactical error" in the stretch run, allowing Pretorius to break ahead.
It was the first time since 1991 that the surfski winner was not named Chalupsky or Gardiner. From 1992 through last year, either Oscar Chalupsky, his brother Herman Chalupsky, or Australia's Dean Gardiner won the race.
Pretorius used an Epic V-10 surfski created by Oscar Chalupsky.
"I think it's good for the sport; it's good to see some young blood coming in," Chalupsky said.
Australia's Clint Robinson was within striking distance of the leaders the entire race, and finished third in 3:23:01.
"I was in a terrible Clint sandwich," Chalupsky said.
But according to Chalupsky, Robinson was "unsportsmanlike" during the race, and deliberately rammed his surfski into the South Africans at various times across the channel. Moments after crossing the finish line, Robinson again collided with Chalupsky and they traded verbal jabs.
"It's probably frustrating ... but there's no reason for it to be so aggressive and take it out on me," Chalupsky said.
Gardiner, who has 11 Moloka'i Challenge championships, placed fourth in 3:30:04. He still holds the course record of 3:21:26 in 1997.
Tahiti's Lewis Laughlin was fifth in 3:34:12.
Mark Sandvold of Hawai'i Kai placed sixth overall, and was the first Hawai'i finisher with a time of 3:37:45.
"There was wind the whole way, and the swell was going perfectly straight to Portlock," he said. "You couldn't ask for a better day."
It was the best showing for a Hawai'i paddler in the men's surfski division since 2001.
"My goal was to be in the top 10 and be the first Hawai'i guy," Sandvold said. "The top five guys are like professionals, so I'm happy just to be near those guys."
Not even a scare from a tiger shark could put a damper on Sandvold's race.
"It came right up to me and then circled my (surfski)," he said. "It was at least 15 feet."
Maggie Twigg-Smith of Hawai'i Kai was the first female to finish on a surfski with a time of 4:27:05. It was her first Moloka'i Challenge victory.
The international contingent of female paddlers did not enter this year, including two-time defending champion Jasmin Cohen of Australia. Only three females competed on surfskis yesterday.
"Of course it takes away from the win a little," said Twigg-Smith, 31. "But I guess you have to be here to win it."
Her "push" came from husband Tim Twigg-Smith, who entered yesterday's race on a one-person canoe. They stayed near each other across the channel, and Tim finished four minutes after Maggie.
1, Clint Pretorius, 3:22:14. 2, Oscar Chalupsky, 3:22:42. 3, Clint Robinson, 3:23:01. 4, Dean Gardiner, 3:30:34. 5, Lewis Laughlin, 3:34:12. 6, Mark Sandvold, 3:37:45. 7, Damien Daley, 3:45:39. 8, Kane Henssner, 3:45:57. 9, Ken Collins, 3:49:35. 10, Paul Willford, 3:52:14. 11, Steve Kelly, 3:53:21. 12, Patrick Hemmens, 3:59:21. 13, Eric Abbott, 4:04:26. 14, Kaihe Chong, 4:09;24. 15, Danny Topfer, 4:11:41. 16, Greg Mickel, 4:17:18. 17, Dave Jensen, 4:18:54. 18, Karl Treacher, 4:20:30. 19, Jimmy Kincaid, 4:20:43. 20, John Hoogsteden, 4:22:26. 21, Joe Glickman, 4:38:25. 22, Kennie Denton, 4:39:28. 23, Rene Appel, 4:48:04. 24, Robert Wall, 4:50:59. 25, Troy Griffin, 4:57:45. 26, Kenneth Howell, 4:57:59. 27, Craig Vipond, 5:00:42. 28, Curt Contrell, 5:17:59. 29, John Dixon, 5:23:05. 30, Jon Dingley, 5:47:42.
1, Maggie Twigg-Smith, 4:27:05. 2, Deanne Hemmens, 4:47:28.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.