QUIKSILVEREDITION MOLOKAI TO OAHU
Challengers ready to take on Mitchell in Quiksilveredition
Jamie Mitchell has at least two good reasons to stay motivated as he crosses the Ka'iwi Channel on Sunday.
If Mitchell is to claim his seventh straight Quiksilveredition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race victory this weekend, he'll have to overcome two new threats to his longstanding reign of dominance in the event -- in which the paddlers lie prone or kneel to propel themselves on a surfboard in open-water swells.
Paddleboarding veterans Kyle Daniels and Jackson English have entered the taxing 32-mile race as open competitors this year, offering up a fresh challenge for the man who's been untouchable at his current apex.
Daniels is the only person to have defeated Mitchell in any paddleboarding event in the last five years -- the 2006 32-mile Catalina Classic in California, a blow that left Mitchell more determined than ever. That loss could help explain his record race time of 4 hours, 48 minutes and 23 seconds he hung on the rest of the field in the Quiksilveredition last year, with an insane victory margin of more than 26 minutes over runner-up Bruce Taylor.
If Mitchell was concerned about the revamped field, he didn't show it. The Australian was complimentary of his opposition but confident.
"There's a bunch of guys -- it's really hard," Mitchell, 31, said yesterday at Duke's Restaurant in Waikiki. "You got the usual guys like Brian Rocheleau, the most consistent (person from Hawaii) in the last five or six years. Jackson has come back. (My coach) Mick (Dibetta)'s paddling better this year than he ever has. Kyle from California, he's the Catalina champion so he's gonna be tough. It's one of those races where you gotta wake up hoping you feel good on the day."
Daniels, a 32-year-old Redondo Beach resident, quipped "Who?" when asked about Mitchell's run of titles. He hasn't entered the event as a solo paddler before.
"As much as Jamie is the so-called man to beat, I came here really to race just one person, and that's myself," Daniels explained. "I'll focus on what I can control, and that's my preparation for the race -- 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical."
English has two third-place finishes in this event (in 2002 and 2003), and is just getting back into the sport this year following a four-year hiatus. The 32-year-old from Australia proved he still has what it takes last week at the Hennessey's International Championships on the North Shore; he finished runner-up to Mitchell in the 7-mile race.
Hawaii resident Kanesa Duncan and Australian Shakira Westdorp -- the defending Quiksilveredition women's champion -- have built up a friendly rivalry since swapping victories at the 9-mile Maui International Paddleboard Race (Westdorp) and last week's Hennessey's (Duncan).
Race director Mike Takahashi said he expected a record total field of more than 180 paddlers in the event's 12th year, up from 150 last year. Race conditions are expected to be favorable, but Takahashi warned of a strong current that could come into play after the 5-hour mark.