Gardiner chasing elusive 10th win
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
A perfect 10 would be a perfect way for Australia's Dean Gardiner to paddle away from the Moloka'i World Championships.
Gardiner will attempt to win his 10th Moloka'i championship on Sunday, which could be his last time entering the prestigious race.
"I always wanted to get to 10 — that's a nice number to have — and that's why I'm here," said Gardiner, 45. "At the same time, I don't consider myself a serious racer anymore, so it'll be a lot harder for me to do well this time."
The Moloka'i World Championships is a 32-mile race across the Kaiwi Channel for solo surfskis. It is considered the world championship of long-distance ocean paddling for surfskis.
Gardiner won his ninth title in 2002, and has been chasing number 10 ever since.
His victory drought has coincided with an increased workload in Australia.
In between shifts as a firefighter, Gardiner manufactures surfskis and kayaks, manages a paddling gym and a retail shop, drives a ferryboat, and helps out at a child care center.
He's also a father of three young children.
"Yeah, doesn't leave much time for training," Gardiner said.
Still, Gardiner is considered a contender in any race that features "downhill" conditions. And according to Moloka'i World Championships race director Geoff Graf, conditions on Sunday are expected to be favorable.
"Winds are looking nice — 20 (mph) plus out of the east-northeast — and the tide looks good, too," Graf said. "With conditions looking the way they are, you can't rule Dean Gardiner out. He knows how to win this race and he's a surfing specialist."
Also in Gardiner's favor is the absence of South Africans. Due to a conflicting race, the South African contingent did not make the trip to Moloka'i this year.
South African Hank McGregor won the Moloka'i race last year, and countryman Oscar Chalupsky holds the record with 11 Moloka'i championships.
However, there will be an abundance of Australian contenders. Among them:
• Tim Jacobs, who placed second to McGregor last year.
• Clint Robinson, who was near the lead for most of last year's race before falling back due to cramps.
• Jeremy Cotter, who won most of the long-distance races in Australia this year.
• Mark Anderson, Martin Kenny and Mike Murray have also been faring well in Australia this year.
"On any given day, any one of those guys could pull it off," Graf said.
Mark Sandvold of Hawai'i Kai is considered Hawai'i's top entry, and is looking to break into the top 10.
Maui's Lauren Bartlett is considered the top contender in the women's division. She won the women's division of the solo canoe championship race across the Kaiwi Channel last month.