Connor Baxter and Sonni Hönscheid Win 2018 Olukai Ho’olaule’a

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Paddling out of Maliko Gulch for the start of the 10th annual OluKai Ho'o on a windless Sunday morning, 10 to 12-foot swell took the place of the usual trade winds for a downwind race unlike anything we've seen. Photo: Frank Forbes (@forbeshawaii)

Yesterday, racers in the 10th Annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a downwind race took to Maui’s north shore in uniquely challenging conditions.

After the race was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to inclement weather (dumping sheets of rain and 15-knot onshore gusts), Sunday’s race arrived without the usual trade winds that grace the Maliko Run, the seven-mile stretch of coastline running from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha Beach Park where the OluKai Ho’o takes place. Instead of the wind came another force—10 to 12-foot swell providing some of the biggest surf the island has seen yet this year.

The undisputed fastest downwind paddler in the world, Connor Baxter, hammers towards his seventh consecutive Olukai Ho’o Elite Mens title. Photo: Lorenzo Menendez

While the lack of wind and abundance of surf made for distinctive conditions, the contention of top SUP athletes from around the world remained consistent to traditional Olukai Ho’o standards. Connor Baxter and Sonni Hönscheid returned to Maliko to claim more victories in their respective divisions, Baxter tallying his sixth Olukai victory while Hönscheid took her second.

Behind Baxter, the stout Australian SUP and foiling savant James Casey hammered hard through the triple-overhead surf on Kanaha’s outer reef to claim second place among the elite men. The veteran title contender and three-time Molokai 2 Oahu victor Travis Grant finished third among the Elite Men’s standup paddlers ahead of a scattered field of brave paddlers washing in across the reef.

Kiwi Penelope Strickland finished second in the Elite Women’s division with Maui’s own rising star Annie Reickert rounding out the podium in third. This came as no surprise to the crowd as these three ladies are no strangers to the podium, but the Cinderella story came with fourth place finisher Yuka Sato, the racer who traveled all the way from her home in Japan to shine bright with her debut podium performance at OluKai.


With no wind to propel the paddlers, the advantage on the first six miles of the course was in power rather than downwind ability. But to conquer the homestretch through the massive waves required guts and with hope, a stroke of luck for the finishing paddlers.

Where contenders in the lead pack finished the race in just over an hour’s time, the last paddlers to finish came in well beyond the two-hour mark. Snapped boards and outrigger canoes from some of the less fortunate competitors washed in along with them, making for an intense, entertaining and exceptionally memorable year of SUP racing at the OluKai race.

When the standup paddlers finished, the first-ever foil division at the Olukai Ho’olaule’a commenced making the 10th annual an even more memorable day. Connor Baxter, James Casey, Kody Kerbox and Zane Schweitzer, all of whom competed in the SUP race only moments before, faced off with progressive foil surfer Austin Kalama for a historic showing across Kanaha’s reef (the group was taken out beyond the reef by Jet Ski and they started there as there were no wind swell for them to catch). In what had to be one of the shortest but most intensely calorie-burning races witnessed in paddling, Baxter’s uncanny ability on his home turf saw him cut across the finish line first after criss-crossing with his good buddy Kerbox in the jumbled swells at inside Kanaha. The win further cements his reputation as the king of Maliko.

GoFoil Recap of The First-Ever Olukai Ho’olaule’a Foil Race

We’ll have an exclusive gallery from our on-water photographer and racer’s perspective writeup from SUP Magazine editor and OluKai Ho’olaule’a contender, Will Taylor, coming soon. Stay tuned!

More on the Olukai Ho’olaule’a

Full Elite Mens SUP Results

1 Connor Baxter 1:12:50 Hawaii Open
2 James Casey 1:14:45 Australia Open
3 Travis Grant 1:15:35 Australia Open
4 Ty Judson 1:15:50 Australia Open
5 Matt Nottage 1:18:41 Australia Open
6 Josh Riccio 1:21:00 USA Open
7 Nathan Cross 1:23:46 Australia Open
8 Ryan Funk 1:24:00 USA Open
9 Noah Garfield 1:26:44 Hawaii Open
10 John Hadley 1:34:28 USA Open
11 Robert Stehlik 1:36:22 Hawaii Open
12 John Walsh 1:37:58 Hawaii 40+
13 Livio Menelau 1:39:53 Brazil Open
14 Bojan Bernard 1:40:10 Hawaii 50+
15 Hans Wannemacher 1:43:10 New Zealand Open
16 Jordan Hetrick 1:43:59 USA 40+
17 Kyle Ellison 1:44:30 Hawaii Open
18 Ben Chalmers 1:44:51 Australia 40+
19 Alex Mawae 1:44:54 Hawaii Junior
20 Adam Schell 1:45:15 Canada Open
21 Brian Fishbook 1:45:50 Canada 40+
22 Zane Saenz 1:46:59 USA Junior
23 Ron St. John 1:47:51 USA 50+
24 Masao Fukayama 1:52:39 Japan 40+
25 Kelso Offenbaker 1:55:00 New Zealand 40+
26 Brandon McCormick 1:56:46 USA 40+
27 Geoff James 1:58:12 50+
28 Zoltan Bazso 1:58:15 40+
29 Samuel Shnider 1:58:47 40+
30 Searay Beltran 2:07:15 50+
31 Kadu De Siqueira 2:11:05 Open
32 Anderson Gallagher 2:17:06 Junior
33 Jacob Bick 2:17:38 50+
34 James Williams 2:23:37 60+
35 Karl Wannemacher 2:25:22 60+
36 Joe Woodman 2:25:46 50+
37 Fred Andersen 2:26:25 60+
38 Nathan Smith 2:35:52 Open

Full Elite Womens SUP Results

1 Sonni Honscheid 1:27:36 Germany Open
2 Penelope Strickland 1:33:18 New Zealand Open
3 Annie Reickert 1:33:48 Hawaii Junior
4 Yuka Sato 1:35:46 Japan Open
5 Jade Howson 1:36:39 USA Junior
6 Laura Quetglas 1:44:23 Spain Open
7 Shanna Upton 1:51:31 Hawaii 40+
8 Natali Fon 1:59:11 USA 50+
9 Elizabeth Campos 2:08:02 USA 40+
10 Wendy Tillett 2:13:00 Canada 50+
11 Erika Lane 2:13:14 USA 40+
12 Nadia Murrell 2:14:27 New Zealand Open
13 Sharlene Griffen 2:33:43 New Zealand 40+
14 Janine Walther 2:36:53 Germany Open

Top Results All Divisions

OC1 men’s – Kua Nolan.
OC1 woman’s – Monica Esquivel
OC2 men’s – Keahi Warfield & Jun Balanga.
OC2 woman’s – Kristin Old and Sarah Taylor Balanga.
Prone – Tyler Jaggers.
SUP woman’s – Sonni Honschide.
SUP men’s – Connor Baxter.
Foil – Connor Baxter.

Full Results and Times

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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