Aussie wins 32-mile Molokai paddle race, sets new world record

On Sunday, Matt Bevilacqua won his second Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard Race presented by Kona Brewing, setting a new world record for the race across the deep, infamous Molokai Channel.

Bevilacqua finished first in the Unlimited (18-foot board) Men’s and first overall.

Ironman Matt Bevilacqua just won the Molokai 2 Oahu race, setting a new paddle record for the 32-mile channel crossing. Photo: Lazarus/@jianca_lazarus
Ironman Matt Bevilacqua just won the Molokai 2 Oahu race, setting a new paddle record for the 32-mile channel crossing. Photo: Lazarus/@jianca_lazarus

 

This channel has been known to be treacherous to navigators from ancient Polynesians to current day fishermen. It claimed the life of legendary North Shore lifeguard and big wave surfer, Eddie Aikau in 1978 during the voyage of the Hokule’a.

This modern day race, from on Molokai’s Kalua Koi to Maunalua Bay Beach Park on Oahu, is as much a test of preparation, endurance and will as it is a tribute to the watermen of the past and this storied body of water.

“I think after winning last year, the most important thing for me was the mental preparation. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. And while my physical prep this year was as much as my body could handle, I didn’t want to go in with too much expectation. The channel is just a beast and your racing the best paddlers in the world. Getting ahead of yourself mentally would be a detrimental mistake,” Bevilacqua told GrindTV upon completion of the race.

Bevliacqua, 24, aka “The Tasmanian Tiger,” grew up competing in his native Tasmania before moving to the Gold Coast of Australia to train. He finished third in Australia’s popular Nutri-Grain Ironman series last season. He aced the 2015 Queensland State Ironman Championships and took second in the 2014 World Ironman Championships in France.

“I took the race step-by-step, minute-by-minute and focused on the process. Dealing with the channel as one big thing is too much physically and mentally to handle. The conditions helped, the wind and swells were almost perfect in direction. We had good cloud cover and even a bit of rain to cool down. But it was the hardest, most intense race I have ever done without a doubt,” he admitted.

Photo: Courtesy M20
This modern day race, from on Molokai’s Kalua Koi to Maunalua Bay Beach Park on Oahu, is as much a test of preparation, endurance, and will as it is a tribute to the watermen of the past and this storied body of water. Photo: Courtesy of M20

 

His time on Sunday was 4 hours 29 minutes and 32 seconds, blowing away his winning time of 5:20:13 in 2015 and beating handily the former record of 4:40:31, set by Australian paddle racer/surfer Jamie Mitchell in 2011.

“Daniel Shade and I were literally flying under world record time in six to eight-foot swells in the middle of the ocean, side by side for four hours. That was surreal and an incredible experience in itself. Catching swells suits me and it’s a natural strength of mine.”

This was only Bevilacqua’s second time at the Molokai 2 Oaha, and he feels he is still lacking experience in the channel. With rain cutting down visibility he couldn’t see the island of Oahu for most of the race and made a few bad directional decisions.

Photo: Courtesy Fin Film Company/M2O.
“Daniel Shade and I were literally flying under world record time in six to eight-foot swells in the middle of the ocean, side by side for four hours. That was surreal and an incredible experience in itself. Catching swells suits me and it’s a natural strength of mine.” Photo: Courtesy Fin Film Company/M2O

“Fortunately, my training was second to none though and my fitness luckily made up for those mistakes,” he said.

Paddlesports have always been huge in Australia, which owned the top three spots in the Unlimited Men’s division. Interestingly, Aussie Stewart McLaughlan, set a new record for the stock paddleboard division on a 12-foot prone board. The top female overall was Jordan Mercer, also Australian, who finished in 5:32:42 for her sixth win at this event.

“Ocean paddling is getting bigger and bigger every year, in SUP and Prone, and we are seeing more and more countries being involved. It’s a great movement to be a part of and I think it could potentially be massive. There is simply no feeling in the world being out there with nothing but a slab of fibreglass under you, almost flying across the open ocean,” added Bevilacqua.

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