Chalupsky, 45, refuses to act his age
|Photo gallery: Molokai World Championships|
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Oscar Chalupsky had the worst Moloka'i-to-O'ahu surfski race of his career last year.
He placed fourth.
At 45, Chalupsky is back for this year's Epic Kayaks Moloka'i World Championships to prove that he is still an age-defying contender.
"This is still fun for me — that's the main reason why I keep going," he said. "It gets harder every year because the other guys are getting younger and faster every year."
Meanwhile, Chalupsky is getting older and faster.
The paddler from South Africa already owns a record 11 Moloka'i World Championships, and is considered one of the favorites on Sunday.
The 32-mile race across the Kaiwi Channel is considered the world championship of long-distance racing for solo surfskis. More than 100 paddlers from around the world are expected to enter this year.
"Oscar has won it 11 times, and in all types of conditions," said fellow South Africa competitor Dawid Mocke. "He definitely knows how to win it, so you have to look at him."
Last year, Tahiti's Lewis Laughlin won the race in excessively grueling conditions.
This year, the course is 32 miles (as opposed to 37 last year), and conditions should not be as adverse. With that, Chalupsky expects the South African contingent to be in the lead pack.
"It should be an easier race with this finish line," Chalupsky said. "I think that will help us a little bit because (Laughlin) is very strong in long races."
Chalupsky said he expects himself, his younger brother Herman, Mocke and Hank McGregor to be the top contenders.
"If I had to choose, it's between those four," Chalupsky said. "But if the channel is flat, Lewis Laughlin will be right there again."
Mark Sandvold — one of Hawai'i's top entries — said it will take a "perfect day" for a Hawai'i paddler to beat the top South Africans.
"Those guys are so committed," Sandvold said. "They're traveling and competing around the world all year."
Chalupsky said he has increased his training this year in part because his brother Herman returned to the racing scene this year. Herman Chalupsky is entering the Moloka'i World Championships for the first time since 2005.
"I'm glad I wasn't here last year," said Herman, 43. "Hopefully the conditions are better."
Although many of the top South Africans train together, Oscar said there will be no team tactics during Sunday's race.
"Once we're out there, it's every man for himself," he said.
Mocke added: "Everyone wants to win the Moloka'i no matter where you're from. I suppose you could compare it to the British Open or Masters in golfing. It's the one that's a little more special to win."
The Hawai'i paddlers are praying for an increase in favorable winds and ocean swell to break the international streak of victories. The last Hawai'i competitor to win the Moloka'i World Championships was Kalai Handley in 1978.
"It's not a secret that the Hawai'i guys want the biggest waves," Sandvold said.
Stu Gaessner and Sean Monahan are also considered contenders from Hawai'i.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.