Star-Bulletin Sports

Australia's Jamie Mitchell was the top finisher in yesterday's Quiksilveredition paddleboard race from Molokai to Oahu. Australians took the top four spots.

It’s easy as 1-2-3-4
for Australia

Mitchell leads the way from
Molokai to Oahu in the
Quiksilveredition paddleboard race

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Led by Jamie Mitchell, four lifeguards from Down Under clawed their way to the very top yesterday at the sixth annual Quiksilveredition Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race.

In the first 1-2-3-4 finish for Australia in the event, Mitchell, 25, finished the 32-mile crossing of the Kaiwi Channel first overall in a time of 5 hours, 44 minutes, 40 seconds.

The victory was Mitchell's first in two solo attempts in the unlimited (open) division of the Quiksilveredition. The Queensland native was a former two-time team (two paddlers, switching off) winner at the event.

"This is the pinnacle," said Mitchell, who also won three other races in Hawaii and one in California leading up to the Quiksilveredition. "It's been a great year; what a great way to top it off.

"I think it's the greatest day of my life. I set myself for this race all year, and came here early and did all the lead-up races. I really wanted to win this one. I'm stoked."

Paddleboards are essentially streamlined surfboards designed to ride open-ocean swells. The Quiksilveredition is considered the world championship of paddleboard racing.

Defending champion Aaron Bitmead finished second, a fair distance behind Mitchell at 5:50:31. Jackson English took third place at 5:52:58, while race record holder Mick Dibetta snagged fourth at 6:04:41.

Catherine Jappe of California gave a kiss to her son Shaun, 17, yesterday after he finished the Quiksilveredition race.

The overall record of 5:22:48, which Dibetta established in the Quiksilveredition's inaugural event of 1997, was never in jeopardy. Non-conducive conditions included small, inconsistent channel swells in the 4-foot range, along with northeast winds and a receding tide pushing the paddleboarders away from Oahu.

"The conditions weren't that great, there weren't that great of runners (rideable waves). It was pretty tough, " Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, he had only Bitmead and English in sight about 2 1/2 hours into the race, and the three of them battled within about 50 yards of each other until approximately a mile off Portlock Point. But Mitchell gapped his countrymen as they rounded Portlock and headed for the finish at the shores of Maunalua Bay.

"I just dug deep, and all of a sudden my arms came good again and I got my second wind, and here I am ... it's all guts and glory," he said.

The Australian group, including Dibetta, separated from a pack of strong contenders from Hawaii at the start of the race at Papohaku Homestead.

Seventy-one competitors (33 solo, 19 teams) participated in the event, with only one athlete unable to finish.

The Aussie contingent aimed a northerly course toward Oahu's southeastern shore, while the Hawaii paddleboarders shot more toward the south. Hawaii Kai's Brian Rocheleau hung north with the Australian foursome the longest, but he, too, veered south like the rest of the local paddlers as the race progressed. Rocheleau, 26, was the first finisher from Hawaii at 6:05:31, fifth overall.

The rest of the pack that went south ended up fighting the winds and water current to finish well behind.

"It would be nice to have someone bring (the Quiksilveredition title) back to Hawaii," said Rocheleau, who participated for the first time in the solo competition after winning the team title last year with his brother, Marc. "But with the top four guys here, it's going to be kinda hard.

"But I had a good race. I thought I did all right."

Bitmead said the Australians did not come in with a plan to race together, nor did they talk much beforehand about the prospects of sweeping the top spots at the Quiksilveredition.

"(Finishing) 1-2-3-4, that's just unreal," he said.

As for finishing as the runner-up a year after winning the race, there is still, "heaps of satisfaction. Jamie is my best mate from back home and it was just an all-around fun race. We stuck together."

Other noteworthy finishers yesterday included Kanesa Duncan, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., who, at 7:08:05, 28th overall, smashed the women's record she established last year by nearly a half-hour. Honolulu's Dolan Eversole (6:17:45) won the stockboard (shorter boards, measuring 12 feet) division, finishing seventh overall.

In team competition, Chris Miller and Todd Bradley (6:14:03) took the men's title, while Susan Stewart and Chitose Iwanami (7:45:16) successfully crossed as the only women's duo.

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