Two more fun than one in channel relay
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
After paddling against each other across the Kaiwi Channel two weeks ago, many of the world's best solo canoe paddlers will pair up to cross it on Sunday.
Around 200 paddlers are expected to participate in the Kaiwi Channel Relay.
The race features two-person teams, but uses one-person canoes (also known as OC-1). The paddlers alternate on the canoe — when one is paddling, the other follows in an escort boat, and changes are made every 10 to 20 minutes.
"This is more of a fun race because you have a partner," said Manny Kulukulualani, who is serving as both race director and top contender.
The 40.2-mile race starts at Kaluako'i, Moloka'i, and finishes at Magic Island, O'ahu.
Two weeks ago, many of the same paddlers battled each other during the Steinlager Kaiwi Channel Solo OC1 World Championship.
For example, Jimmy Austin and Kulukulualani placed second and third, respectively, at the solo championships. On Sunday, they will be partners, making them the favorites.
"There's so many factors, it's hard to say," Kulukulualani said. "And you have two guys paddling instead of one, so a lot of it has to do with how you work together."
California's Danny Ching, who won the solo championship two weeks ago, is not entered this week.
Maui's Kai Bartlett won last year's relay title with Mike Judd. This year, Bartlett will partner with Matt DuBrule.
"It doesn't matter who Kai paddles with," Kulukulualani said. "He's always going to be up there."
Other top teams include Kea Pa'iaina/Aaron Creps, Mike Murray/Travis Grant, and Aaron Napoleon/Mike Mills-Thom.
Most pairings are based on the canoe. Because only one canoe can be used per team, paddlers normally select a partner who uses the same model of canoe.
"This seems to be the race the boat builders look at," Kulukulualani said. "You get a good representation of paddlers, and it's a chance for them to see how their boats stack up against the others."