Star-Bulletin Sports


Paddlers take on channel today

By Cindy Luis

Waves of 6-10 feet, 25-mph winds and a 40-mile course are nothing for Walter Guild. Not when he was faced with making sure that some 108 single and double canoes made it safely to Molokai by Friday.

"The hard part is over for me," said Guild. "Now the fun starts."

The fun begins this morning when a record number of paddlers push off into the waters off Kaluakoi to compete in the 13th Starbucks Ka'Iwi Channel Relay World Championship. A south swell and ESE winds were expected to greet the OC-1 and OC-2 participants across the Ka'Iwi Channel to the finish line at the mouth of the Ala Wai Harbor.

The first division to get underway is the OC-1 women at 8 a.m., the first of three staggered start times. For the first time, a ranking system will be used, based on previous performance and experience.

"What we've done is rank the paddlers from B to AAA," said Guild. "We'll look at the conditions in the morning and rank the water. This way, paddlers know where they rank and who might not race, depending on the conditions.

"It's a safety issue. And we want to keep it a safe and fun event."

Guild will team with Nate Hendricks in the solo relay. It will be Guild's 11th crossing in this event; he's lost count of the number of Molokai Hoe OC-6's he's completed.

"As long as it's not so nuts to organize and paddle, and it's still fun, I'll keep doing both," said the 45-year-old Guild. "We came up with the idea of the race to do something different from six-man. The course is the most downwind course we could get, next to the hotel, where we don't have to deal with the problems and logistics of getting down to Hale O Lono.

"And the toys keep getting better and better."

Guild and Hendricks will be paddling a new OC-1 designed by Karel Tresnak Sr. It's a modified calm-roughwater canoe that also does well in the open ocean.

"All the top teams will be using boats that will be in the channel for the first time," said Guild. "It will be interesting to see how the different boats do. The teams are practicing, but until you cross the channel in it, you don't know."

With a good swell and favorable winds, the potential is there for a race record. Karel Tresnak Jr. and Kai Bartlett hold the OC-1 mark of 4 hours, 36 minutes, 7 seconds, set in 2000. The first competitors are expected around 1:30 p.m.

The OC-1 race consists of two paddlers alternating time in the boat, while the OC-2 is a four-person relay.

"We used to have it as a three-person team but that meant you had to paddle two-thirds of the time," said Guild. "This way, the time gets split 50-50 and is easier to manage."

The year's event is a fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii. The club is beginning a waterman-waterwoman program to include water sports in its activities.

"The club is bringing down kids to the finish," said Guild. "I'm hoping that they'll see this as something to aspire to. They don't have to dream of being the next Michael Jordan. They can see world-class local athletes right in their backyard."

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