[ PADDLING ]
COURTESY OF TWAIN NEWHART
Karel Tresnak Jr., winner of the Men's OC-1 division, paddled off Portlock Point outside Maunalua Bay yesterday.
Familiar names rule
The winners' names at the 28th annual Kona Brewing Co. Molokai World Championships, for the most part, were again very familiar: Chalupsky, Tresnak and Spalding.
In the 32-mile race yesterday across the Kaiwi Channel that is considered the world championship of long-distance solo ocean paddling, Hawaii's Karel Tresnak Jr. and Lauren Spalding defended their titles in the one-person canoe divisions. Tresnak won the men's championship for the fifth time in six years and Spalding the women's for the third straight time on the course from Kaluakoi, Molokai, to Koko Marina, Oahu.
For the one-person surfski divisions, Chalupsky was again the name at the top for the men -- as it was last year and a record nine other occasions as well. But shockingly to some, "Herman" was the winner's first name this time instead of "Oscar."
"It's taken me long enough," said the 39-year-old South African, whose older brother, 41-year-old Oscar, has won the event a record 10 times, including last year. "This is great. Quite a few guys have done it and I've (almost) always been the bridesmaid. This year, my mind was right at the start of the race and beforehand, and I managed to get (the win)."
Herman Chalupsky technically tied for the win in the race once before, but that was back in 1995, when he and his brother decided to cross the finish line together after battling each other for most of the way.
With an international field of 105 competitors, the race began yesterday at 8:26 a.m. That was 26 minutes later than planned because inclement weather on Saturday prevented some competitors from arriving on schedule.
In his surfski -- which is considered faster than a one-person canoe -- Herman Chalupsky finished the course first overall in a time of 3 hours, 48 minutes and 40 seconds, almost seven minutes ahead of the next paddler.
The next four to finish were also men on surfskis, with Australia's Dave Kissane (3:55:16) coming in second in his first attempt at the race, and Oscar Chalupsky (3:58:10) third, first in the Masters (40-49) division. Mark Sandvold (4:12:23) had the best result among Hawaii paddlers in surfskis, finishing sixth in the open division, seventh in overall surfski.
"About an hour and a half into the race I just decided to go for it," said Herman Chalupsky, who chose a northerly line to Oahu. "I didn't look back and didn't see anyone, and the escort boat said (the closest challengers) were about half a mile behind after two hours."
"I knew if I wasn't (up at the front) with him, I was going to struggle to beat him," Oscar Chalupsky said of his brother. "This is his first time ever he beat me and he's come here 10 times. It's good for him; he's obviously enjoying it and he deserves it ... as long as it stays in the family."
Because of the challenging conditions -- including stiff side and head winds with poor waves to ride in the channel -- Chalupsky's winning time was well off the men's surfski record (3:21:26) owned by nine-time champion Dean Gardiner. Gardiner started the race yesterday but was unable to finish after his craft was damaged.
None of the other division records were challenged either. Tresnak was the first to finish in a one-person canoe at 4:11:15, good enough for sixth overall.
The 23-year-old from Kailua used his unmatched surfing skill to turn even the wakes from escort boats into rideable waves. He led from start to finish, picking up his second straight victory.
Hawaii's Mike Judd (4:13:32) finished second in the division and California's Danny Ching (4:22:23) third.
The conditions "were just not that good out there," Tresnak said. "I kept expecting someone to come up and catch me. But I toughed it out. I really paced myself from the start because I knew it was going to be a long day. ... A win's a win."
After qualifying two weeks ago for the 2004 Olympics in Athens as a flat-water kayaker, Spalding, of Kula, Maui, jumped in a one-person canoe for the first time all year. The 32-mile, open-ocean race was a "break" from her regular regimen at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego.
And the newly minted Olympian and race record holder (4:28:31, in 2002) turned in yet another impressive performance, three-peating in the women's division with a time of 5:00:39. Australia's Lisa Curry-Kenny (5:02:56) finished second, and Hawaii's Arlene Holzman (5:30:00) third.
"I'm glad I did it," the 24-year-old Spalding said. "It's amazing what we put our bodies through, but it feels good. I'm probably not going to mention it to my (Olympic team) coach though, but all my teammates know."
The only new name among major-division winners yesterday was Jasmin Cohen, of Australia, who won the women's surfski in 4:27:01 after competing in the race for only the second time.
It was actually an Aussie sweep of the top three spots in the division, as defending champion Kirsty Holmes (4:33:38) placed second and Cassandra Sedgman (4:35:01) third. The trio, along with Curry-Kenny, belong to the Mooloolaba Club, which paddled a six-person canoe across the Kaiwi Channel to victory in last year's Na Wahine O Ke Kai.