Ching gets historic win
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The paddling progression of Danny Ching is now complete.
And now, California can claim a solo paddling world champion.
Ching won the Steinlager Kaiwi Channel Solo OC1 World Championship yesterday, becoming the first non-Hawai'i paddler to win the prestigious race.
"This means everything," said Ching, who is from Redondo Beach. "This is my sixth or seventh try at it. The last couple years I've been getting closer and closer. A lot of people were saying this could be my year, but I tried not to pay attention to it."
Ching completed the 32-mile course from Kaluako'i, Moloka'i, to Koko Marina, O'ahu, in 3 hours, 38 minutes, 51 seconds. It was the second-fastest time in the 18-year history of the race, and just 48 seconds off the course record.
Maui's Lauren Bartlett continued her domination of the women's division, winning in a record time of 4:13:43. It shattered the previous women's mark — which she set two years ago — by more than seven minutes.
The race across the Kaiwi Channel is considered the world championship of long-distance paddling for one-person canoes (also known as OC-1s).
Ching, 26, had five previous top-five finishes in the event, including a third in 2008, and second last year.
"I've been coming here every year trying to figure it out," he said. "It was a long, slow process, so it feels insane to win it."
Making it more impressive, Ching won in "epic" conditions — favorable winds and ocean swells of 6 to 10 feet.
"If it's big, the Hawaiians always have the advantage," Ching said. "That's what makes this so amazing for me."
It was also exciting.
Honolulu paddlers Jimmy Austin and Manny Kulukulualani stayed near Ching the entire race.
"What a tough battle all day," Austin said. "We were never separated by more than 150 yards between the three of us."
Austin finished in second place with a time of 3:39:23. The 32-second difference between first and second made it the closest finish in the history of the race.
Kulukulualani, who is also the race director, placed third in 3:42:14.
Austin jumped to a brief lead about one hour into the race, then lost it after a big wave crashed over him.
"I dropped in on an insane bomb and it completely took me out," Austin said. "It took me a while to gather everything together, and by the time I got back up, those guys were 150 yards in front and I had to play catch up the rest of the way. That part makes it frustrating."
Austin eventually caught Kulukulualani, but could never pass Ching.
"I got up pretty close to Danny, and we battled for a while," Austin said. "But he was just too strong in the flat (water). I couldn't quite keep up towards the end there."
Ching, however, said he was surfing scared all the way to the finish line, and heeded the advice of coach John Puakea, who was on his escort boat.
"All I heard from him was 'keep surfing,' and that's what I did," Ching said. "He told me I could out-paddle anybody, but on a day like this, it wasn't about who paddles the hardest, it's about who surfs the longest."
Although Ching is from California, he is no stranger to Hawai'i. He spends several months per year training with Hawai'i paddlers. His father is also from Hawai'i.
Kai Bartlett of Maui placed fourth with a time of 3:44:38. He won the race last year, but was not expected to enter yesterday due to an injured shoulder.
He said he entered at the last minute when he saw that the conditions would be favorable. In essence, he placed fourth without properly training for the race.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Simeon Ke-Paloma in fifth, Aaron Creps sixth, Thibert Lussiaa seventh, Kaeo'okalani Abbey eighth, Mike Murray ninth and Kea Pa'iaina 10th.
Lauren Bartlett, who is Kai's wife, raced to her record seventh women's title, including the last four. And this one wasn't even close.
Fellow Maui paddler Andrea Moller placed second in 4:23:20 — almost 10 minutes behind Lauren.
"I saw Andrea next to me in the beginning, and I know what a beast she can be, especially in the surf," Lauren said. "So I knew I had to put my head down and go."
Like her husband, Lauren's practice time has been limited this year.
"We have two kids who are getting older and doing a lot of stuff — gymnastics, swimming," she said. "It's life. It's hard to train all the time. I think I did just enough (training) to get me across."
Jane McKee of Kailua placed third in the women's division in 4:34:24. Her finish was impressive for two reasons. One, it was her first attempt at the solo world championship race. Second, McKee is 52 and actually beat all the men in the 50-older division.
1, Danny Ching, 3:38:51. 2, Jimmy Austin, 3:39:23. 3, Manny Kulukulualani, 3:42:14. 4, Kai Bartlett, 3:44:38. 5, Simeon Ke-Paloma, 3:47:03. 6, Aaron Creps, 3:47:45. 7, Thibert Lussiaa, 3:47:57. 8, Kaeo'okalani Abbey, 3:48:05. 9, Mike Murray, 3:49:26. 10, Kea Pa'iaina, 3:49:56. 11, Aaron Napoleon, 3:51:06. 12, Peter Dorries, 3:51:53. 13, Luke Evslin, 3:52:47. 14, Tyson Poppler, 3:53:31. 15, Carlton Helm, 3:55:04. 16, Nick Dennis, 3:55:15. 17, Kekoa Bruhn, 3:56:18. 18, Mike Mills-Thom, 3:56:48. 19, Tapa Worthington, 3:57:31. 20, Raven Aipa, 3:58:29. 21, Jay Griffin, 3:59:11. 22, Felipe Gomes, 3:59:37. 23, Justin Banfield, 3:59:50. 24, Adrian Hybner, 4:00:17. 25, Makana Denton, 4:00:38.
26, Justin Watts, 4:01:51. 27, Sean Kaawa, 4:01:54. 28, Peter Konohia, 4:02:58. 29, Ikaika Hauanio, 4:02:59. 30, Kekoa Cramer, 4:04:07. 31, Taku Araki, 4:04:37. 32, Nick Agorastos, 4:05:02. 33, Evan Rhodes, 4:07:17. 34, Tyson Rodrigues, 4:08:31. 35, Gavin Hanoa, 4:09:54. 36, Puni Freitas, 4:11:34. 37, Kekoa Kau, 4:11:42. 38, Ka'ai Bruhn, 4:13:05. 39, Nicholas Ho, 4:13:25. 40, Lauren Bartlett, 4:13:43. 41, Steve Viney, 4:18:21. 42, Matthew DuBrule, 4:18:58. 43, Kainoa Darval-Chang, 4:19:22. 44, Justin Akana, 4:21:22. 45, Keanu Kuna, 4:21:58. 46, Aaron Labuguen, 4:22:07, 47, Robert Olson, 4:22:57. 48, Andrea Moller, 4:23:20. 49, Keizo Gates, 4:24:11. 50, Sylvain Mercandalli, 4:24:13.
1, Lauren Bartlett, 4:13:43. 2, Andrea Moller, 4:23:20. 3, Jane McKee, 4:34:24. 4, Rachel Bruntsch, 4:36:52. 5, Lori Nakamura, 4:37:17. 6, Arlene Holzman, 4:42:35. 7, Anna Mathisen, 4:56:32. 8, Sarah Gilman, 5:06:10. 9, Janelle Jinbo, 5:21:46. 10, Kimiko Iwata, 5:24:25.
1, Kekoa Kau, 4:11:42. 2, Kainoa Darval-Chang, 4:19:22. 3, Mike Dowsett, 5:02:07.
1, Aaron Napoleon, 3:51:06. 2, Peter Dorries, 3:51:53. 3, Mike Mills-Thom, 3:56:48. 4, Evan Rhodes, 4:07:17. 5, Steve Viney, 4:18:21.
1, Bruce Lukas, 4:36:03. 2, Cliff Tillotson, 4:51:24. 3, Bruce Stewart, 5:03:04.
1, Roger Dunn, 5:26:38.
Men: 1, Matt Beals/John Maclean, 4:29:49. Mixed: 1, Kamu Aea/Laola Aea, 4:39:43. 2, Nathan Talauega/Kelly Stevens, 5:11:24. 3, Esther Volper/John Akana, 5:12:36.