The seventh annual OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa three-day ocean festival held, May 1-3, drew a record crowd of more than 600 paddlers representing 11 Mainland states and countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, French Polynesia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Pain, United Kingdom and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The festival attracted the most elite OC1 downwind paddling field ever assembled for an international ocean paddling race while also attracting the biggest names globally in the sport of stand up paddling.
Ocean conditions on the famous Maliko Downwind Run on Maui’s North Shore were described as ‘epic’ the entire weekend with consistent 15-20 knot winds and 3-5ft swells that produced the fastest time in the event’s history for the Men’s Elite SUP race.
Maui’s Connor Baxter and Andrea Moller retained their SUP titles to take home the gender equal prize purse of $15,000 at the ocean festival.
Maui paddler Baxter, 20, clocked an impressive 44:25 with a 5:34 mile average for his fourth consecutive win of the OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa Elite Men’s SUP division. “Nothing beats racing at home,” Baxter said. “I get to sleep in my own bed and I have the support of my family and friends around me. It’s an honor to represent Maui and be part of this awesome weekend that shares the aloha of Hawaii.”
The Brazil born and raised Maui resident, Moller, the undisputed “Queen of the Ocean,” won back-to-back titles by taking out first place in both the Women’s Elite SUP and OC1 divisions, notching up her seventh OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa wins. “OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa started off as a local SUP race and today it’s internationally recognized as one of the premier downwind races in the world, making the competition a lot tougher,” Moller said. “It has been an honor to be part of this race from the very beginning and be part of its exciting growth.”
Honolulu’s Jimmy Austin scored an unexpected victory in the Men’s OC1, in the most elite field of OC1 paddlers ever assembled for an international ocean paddling race. With downwind surfing Austin’s biggest strength, the father of two largely credits the perfect swell conditions for his win.
While OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa is one of the world’s premier ocean paddling races, the event honors Hawaii’s ocean lifestyle and stands as a reminder to live pono with a conscious decision to do the right thing for others, ourselves and the environment. Legendary big wave surfer and OluKai Konohiki (caretaker), Archie Kalepa, said that the aloha of OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa just keeps growing year after year.
“From its humble beginnings, the festival set out to be a celebration of the ocean lifestyle we’re so blessed to have, and this still remains our priority today,” Kalepa said. “It’s an opportunity to bring together our ʻohana from all corners of the globe while respectfully honoring and preserving the cultural history of Hawaii.”
Approximately 2,000 people turned up to cheer on the competitors and enjoy the free Hawaiian games and cultural activities. OluKai Hoʻolauleʻa was filmed in HD and will be broadcast internationally courtesy of OluKai media partner, Ocean Paddler TV. The broadcast date is yet to be announced.
Full race results from the weekend are available at Olukai.com/hoolaulea.
Photo of Connor Baxter: Spencer Sheehan