If you listened to Jamie Mitchell seconds after he took his final stroke across the O’ahu finish line, slid off his open class paddleboard and was instantly surrounded by news cameras and reporters, his “slightly under five hour” racing pace across the ocean was more a lonely sprint than a serious race against all challengers and all odds. He even joked to
the surrounding press that he felt strong enough to paddle farther.
Gang, he just paddled 32 grueling miles across the Kaiwi channel and he says he could continue on. On to where, Makaha and back to Waikiki? To anyone still wondering, Jamie Mitchell is NOT a freak of nature, however he shares the same podium with golf’s Tiger Woods, tennis ace Roger Federer and cycling’s Lance Armstrong. Jamie’s paddling abilities and focus match him squarely between racing’s F1 champ Michael Schumacher and Hollywood’s Ironman. Though his speed was not a personal best (he holds the course record from last year’s race and there was no rail-to-rail finish line sprint) Jamie’s closest threat was fellow Aussie, Jackson English, who was Mitchell’s biggest challenger on the last two hours to Portlock’s shallow-water, straight line entrance. English finished a solid twenty minutes later, calculated out to something like two miles behind. Understand the Ironman comparison, now?
While the conditions weren’t the most predictable, if you asked Jamie he’d just smile and talk about the “technical” side of guessing which road to take: the one to the north of the rhumb line or the one to the south. Currents hugging the coast of southeast O`ahu shift dramatically with the tide changes and determining that “flush” line either puts you ahead of your pace or brutally behind it, slogging uphill the rest of the way.
The weather at dawn from Kaluako`i beach Molokai was clear, light trades and a hint of northeasterly wind swell. You could tell from the scattering of the field early in the race that it was a tactical charge to find the best path home. At mid-channel, a slight southeast swell started mixing in against the other open ocean slop, both paddleboard and stand-up competitors (the SUP’s started their race 30 minutes later) now dodging and weaving their way toward the outline of Kokohead crater in the distance. And that’s where it ended. If you knew your route, you stayed on it and played off of every little wave ramp that would glide you ten yards further across the channel. Jamie got to the steep cliffs surrounding Hanauma Bay around noon, shifting his paddling technique to make up for a rapidly disappearing surface swell. He must have gotten a whiff of the finish line around the corner of the point or said to himself “I gotta get out of this sun.” Instantly, he found yet another gear, another mental zone to play in, two more inches of wake coming off the tail of his board, like that bat out of hell that he portrays in the heat of battle.
When he crossed the finish line there was no one in the distance, no one on the horizon, it was just all his to grin about and play time with the press. Duane DeSoto won the SUP division (his first ever crossing), just 2 days after winning China Uemura’s annual, summer longboard event. Maui’s Dave and Ekolu Kalama were the first SUP relay team across the line. On the ladies’ side, it was Kanesa Duncan in the unlimited division, Talia Gangin/Lauren Bartlett took the Team Stock Board while Maria Souza and Andrea Moller teamed up to win the Womens SUP.