Friday, July 30, 2004


Tim Foran, left, and Brian Rocheleau will give defending champion Jamie Mitchell a run for the coveted title.

Defending champ
has company

Jamie Mitchell faces tough competition
in Sunday's Oahu Paddleboard race

There haven't been many major surprises in recent paddleboard events due to the dominance of Jamie Mitchell.

Over the past three years, he has won every event he has entered, leaving his competitors paddling for second. But two days away from Sunday's eighth annual Quiksilveredition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race, considered the world championship of the sport, there are a pair of athletes who could spring a surprise or two in Hawaii's Brian Rocheleau and Australia's Tim Foran.

It was Rocheleau who finished runner-up last year as the Australian Mitchell notched his second straight Quiksilveredition win. And it happened to be part of the closest finish in history, as Mitchell chased down Rocheleau during the last third of the race. He won by less than two minutes (5 hours, 42 minutes and 15 seconds to 5:44:06) after 32 miles across the grueling Kaiwi Channel.

Quiksilveredition Molokai to Oahu Race

When: Sunday, 7:30 a.m.; finishers expected around 1 p.m.

Where: The 32-mile race across Kaiwi Channel starts at Molokai's Kalua Koi Hotel and finishes at Oahu's Maunalua Bay Beach Park.

Who: An international field of 32 solo competitors and 24 two-person teams. Athletes from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and France.

To finish first on Sunday would surprise even the 28-year-old Rocheleau.

"But I'd be real happy, Rocheleau said. "You go out there and do the best you can. It's just the way the cards fall sometimes."

So far, an international field of 32 individuals and 24 two-person teams have entered Sunday's event. It begins at 7:30 a.m. in the water fronting Kalua Koi Hotel, with the first finishers expected at Maunalua Bay Beach Park in Hawaii Kai around 1 p.m.

Paddleboards are essentially streamlined surfboards designed to ride open-ocean swells, which competitors arm-paddle either prone or on their knees.

"You're such at the mercy of the ocean," Rocheleau said. "Someone could just walk away from you, and there's not much you can do sometimes if they're getting the waves and you aren't."

Mitchell, Rocheleau and past champions Aaron Bitmead (2001) and Mick Dibetta (1997) of Australia, have the potential to finish first overall race on boards typically averaging 16 feet in length.

But another very competitive division at the Quiksilveredition is the 12-foot stockboard, for which the 26-year-old Foran has to be considered a top contender.

"A couple of my friends who've done (the Quiksilveredition) before got me interested in board paddling in general," said Foran, who works as a podiatrist in New South Wales. "Last year I had a broken leg, so I decided this year I would have a crack at it."

Participating in his first real race over five minutes just last Saturday, Foran came out of nowhere to win the stockboard division at the 6.5-mile Hennessey's International Paddleboard Championships on Oahu's North Shore, the last race before the Quiksilveredition.

Among others, he defeated Dolan Eversole, a three-time Quiksilveredition stockboard winner (1999, 2000 and '02), and Matt Sack, a two-time Quiksilveredition stockboard runner-up.

Eversole and Sack are from Hawaii.

"I've been training for (the Quiksilveredition), so we'll see what happens," said Foran.

When he's asked others about crossing the channel for the first time, "the Hawaiians are the worst ones," he added. "I don't know if they're just trying to psyche me out or what. They talk about the tides, the winds, the swells ... they say, 'You will hurt.' ... But I'm extremely excited."

Forecasts are calling for 15- to 20-knot tradewinds from the east on Sunday, which should stir up the swells which competitors prefer to the flat conditions like those experienced at the 2003 Quiksilveredition.

About to participate solo for the third time in the race, Rocheleau knows he currently carries Hawaii's banner as its top paddleboarder and contender to win the overall championship that only one other local has enjoyed since the Quiksilveredition's inception in 1997 (two-time winner Sean Monahan, 1999 and 2000).

"I feel good," the Hawaii Kai lifeguard said. "I'm going to go out and race my race and go as fast as I can, and if I happen to beat (Mitchell) that would be great. ... (But) I'm not going to focus on him; I'm just going to focus on my race."

Two women are participating this year. They are two-time winner Kanesa Duncan (2001 and '02), a graduate student at the University of Hawaii; and California champion Jane Cairns. Last year's winner and women's race recordholder (6:47:30), Hayley Bateup of Australia, chose not to race.


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