This year’s BLUESMITHS Paddle Imua event was a landmark day for the water sports scene. The sixth annual BLUESMITHS Paddle Imua–a benefit race for Camp Imua–brought together more than 210 athletes of all ages and showcased some of the most famous water athletes in the world; this year’s event also introduced the first Hydro-SUP competition in Hawaii, which was won by 13-year old Finn Spencer.
Spencer, the only participating Hydro-SUP athlete, said it was pretty cool to be the only person competing in Hydro-foil because he was able to just go out and have fun. “I was the first person to the jetty, but some other guys passed me on the way,” Spencer said. “This wasn’t my first Maliko down-winder, but this was my first Paddle Imua. The conditions were perfect. It was super fun.”
With a goal to support children in need, athletes competed in a variety of events including OC1, OC2, Surf-ski, SUP Unlimited, SUP 14’ No Rudder and Hydro-foil SUP categories. The race started at Maliko Gulch in Haiku and the finish line was at the Kahului Canoe Club in Kahului.
Top results include Lopaka White (men’s OC1); Michael Giblin (men’s OC2); Kristina Dougherty ( Women’s OC2); Michael Owens (Men’s Surf-ski); Kody Kerbox (Men’s SUP Unlimited); Andrea Moller (Women’s SUP Unlimited); Josh Riccio (Men’s SUP 14’ No Rudder); and Alyssa Joy (Women’s SUP 14’ No Rudder).
Kerbox, who was first to reach the finish line, said the wind was epic the day of the event. “I was riding a 17’ 4” Unlimited SIC V1 Bullet,” Kerbox said. “The wind was awesome, the first 3/4 was really windy, really fun, and then it kind of died off a bit. It was a bit of a grind, back and forth with the top four guys the whole way. I’m stoked to take it on the top.”
Jeremy Riggs, who was second to reach the finish line (and the 2nd place winner for the Men’s SUP Unlimited category), said he was tied with Kerbox the entire race. “I was riding a custom 18” SIC Bullet,” Riggs said. “I was battling with Kody Kerbox back and forth the whole time. It was tied the whole way; I thought I might have the edge on him for the first half, but he was right there on my tail. I fell, he fell, we kept exchanging the lead. This is the 6th time I’ve done Paddle Imua; every year seems to have more and more people. For me, it’s the best race on Maui. We get to do the full Maliko Run and you can ride anything you want.”
Women’s SUP Unlimited category winner Moller agreed that the conditions the day of the race were epic. “The wind was really good, the current was good, there was plenty of bumps that created surf- you could just surf the glides,” she said. “So, it was just a lot of fun, basically. The whole time I was paddling I was thinking ‘as long as I’m cruising and having fun, this is what it’s all about.’ I’ve been doing this race since the very first year, but couldn’t do it last year because I was injured. So, this is a great way to come back with perfect conditions.”
Paige Alms, the WSL Big Wave Tour’s Women’s Champion, was on the scene to do an Instagram takeover for Camp Imua. “I love being a part of Paddle Imua just because of what it’s about and what it benefits,” Alms said. “If you’ve ever been to Camp Imua and seen all these kids, they’re just filled with so much love and happiness and it’s really fun to see those smiles. I think the camp brings so much joy to all of the families, and it’s really hard to not want to support it. There’s people here from all over the world. People come here specifically for this event, and that’s something that’s really fun about Paddle Imua.”
Imua Family Services Executive Director Dean Wong expressed gratitude to BLUESMITHS Crafted Waterwear for their support. “We’re always so excited to co-host with BLUESMITHS, our title sponsor,” Wong said. “It’s a benefit race for Maui County children with special needs who attend Camp Imua, a 41-year old program that offers an overnight special recreational camp for children with special needs here in Maui County. This race has been the race that’s put Camp Imua back on the map, and made it sustainable after these 41-years … and athletes love coming out and meeting our kids with special needs and making them feel like they were really part of something that’s so much bigger than this epic race.”
Photo courtesy BLUESMITHS