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Maui Jim Molokai Challenge
May 28, 2017
The Molokai Challenge, originally named Kanaka Ikaika, is a true test of paddling skill, endurance and knowledge of ocean surfing. It tests a paddler’s ability to maneuver against unpredictable weather conditions in the Kaiwi Channel. The Kaiwi Channel, more often called the “Molokai Channel” is an expanse of ocean between the island of Molokai and Oahu. It is considered one of the roughest ocean channels in the world when the ocean is angry.
The start is off the west end of Molokai near Kaluakoi, and traditionally finishes 32 miles away in the Marina off Hawaii Kai. In 2007 the race finished in Waikiki as a test to see if the extra 8 miles would be accepted by the paddlers. There was no wind, 44 entrants pulled out, and the winning time was 5 hours and 20 minutes. The course returned to Hawaii Kai the following year and has not changed since.
Traditionally the Molokai Challenge was a solo invitational event for surfskis only. However, as the one person canoe (OC-1) emerged in the 1990s, Kanaka Ikaika embraced the new craft and had a combined event. However, in 2007 Kanaka Ikaika gave the race away, and within a few years, there was a dedicated OC-1 Molokai channel race and the Molokai Challenge was back to only the Surfski division.
2013 Kanaka Ikaika changed management and in 2014 the Molokai Challenge came back home. As Kanaka Ikaika is an organization that has grown to embrace all paddle disciplines, the new regime opened up again to OC-1s, as well as Prone Paddleboards and Stand Up Paddling. And in an effort to build and enhance Paddlesports, the 2015 Molokai Challenge will also allow relay divisions to participate.