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Mitchell pushes through pain for eighth straight


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POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2009

Jamie Mitchell was so far ahead of his competitors en route to claiming an unprecedented eighth straight world title, he was hugging friends, doing interviews and cooling off before the next-closest paddler even came into view.

And while he made it look easy, Mitchell labored more than in past years; he only managed to flash one shaka as he crossed the finish line instead of the usual two.

Mitchell battled strong currents to claim his eighth consecutive Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race in yesterday's 13th annual event which serves as the sport's unofficial world championship. The 32-year-old lifeguard from Australia traversed the 32-mile course in 4 hours, 58 minutes and 25 seconds — 10 minutes behind his own world-record time set in 2007.

“;It was harder, it was definitely the toughest in the last three or four years,”; Mitchell said as he emerged from the ocean with bloodied toes on both feet — a result of the cumulative pounding caused by the turbulent crossing. “;I could feel my feet just getting worn away. My escort boat didn't really say anything, I was just trying to catch (all the waves) I could.

“;You always hurt at the end no matter what, so why not get to the end a bit faster (than the competition) and push through the pain?”;

A reported 125 paddlers competed in traditional prone and stand-up paddleboard divisions. The paddlers made their way from the starting line fronting the Papohaku Roadstead in West Molokai, through the treacherous Kaiwi Channel, and finished at Maunalua Bay Beach Park fronting Hawaii Kai, just past Portlock. According to race officials, the paddlers faced 25-knot winds and 6-foot seas in the channel.

The Aussie finished more than 20 minutes — the rough equivalent of 1.5 miles — ahead of the next-closest competitor, and the first finisher from Hawaii, Brian Rocheleau (5:20:53). Tim Foran of Australia finished third, more than 32 minutes behind Mitchell's blistering pace.

“;The first half went by really quick, but in that last section, no matter which way you go, the water was running against us really hard,”; Rocheleau said.

Paddlers described a similar trend after completing the trek. Favorable conditions allowed for racers to catch sizable waves, but the tugging currents made getting on the bumps difficult, especially in the final 10 miles of the course. After rounding Koko Head and heading toward the finish line, racers had to cope with stiff headwinds which added yet another degree of difficulty to the already arduous task.

“;The last few hours was pretty painful for me, and I didn't feel as fresh as in past years,”; Mitchell said.

Kanesa Duncan ran away with the women's solo division, paddling to a second straight and seventh overall title. Duncan finished the course in 6:29:29 — nearly 40 minutes behind her record time set in 2004 — and held off Australian rookie Bianca Lee (6:46:08).

“;You always like to feel like you finish, and you feel just spectacular, and today, I didn't feel too spectacular,”; Duncan said. “;It was just hard. Even the middle of the channel wasn't really giving up the waves. The start was the best part because you could catch stuff, there were a couple (favorable) parts in the middle, then it just got snotty and then snottier, and then coming in was full upwind. It was a hard day.”;

Ekolu Kalama claimed the stand-up paddle (SUP) unlimited division in a record time of 5:02:06. The Big Island's Jenny Kalmbach took the women's SUP title in 5:48:31.

“;I got a good course, I was inside against the cliffs, had a lot of push, and I was home free,”; said Kalama of his battle through the wind down the home stretch.

Mikey Cote repeated as champion in the stock board (12-feet, non-rudder) division and posted a record time of 5:32:25.

The team of Aaron Napoleon and Kai Bartlett claimed the SUP team unlimited division in 4:45:17. The SUP team stock title went to the duo of Noland Martin and Greg Pavao in 5:28:51.