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Iconic Paddling Race Returns to Hawaii’s ‘Channel of Bones’

Heavy waves and wild weather commonly wrack the 32-mile passage at the Moloka’i 2 O’ahu Paddleboard World Championships (M2O). This July, athletes return to the channel for the first time in 4 years.

Paddleboarders at Hawaii's Moloka'i 2 O'ahu paddling racePaddleboarders at a previous Moloka’i 2 O’ahu in Hawaii; (photo/Moloka'i 2 O'ahu)
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A waterway doesn’t get the moniker “Channel of Bones” for no reason. The Kaiwi Channel separates the islands of Moloka’i and O’ahu. Notoriously foul weather and open-ocean swells routinely thrash the 32-mile waterway — and the bones of anyone navigating it. In fact, it’s where legendary waterman Eddie Aikau died in 1978.

Perfect place for a standup paddleboard race, right?

Yes, say the organizers of the Moloka’i 2 O’ahu Paddleboard World Championships (M2O). The celebrated event kicks off July 30, 2023, for the first time in 3 years, after repeated COVID-related cancellations.

Categories include SUP, Prone paddling, Foil, and Wing Foil. Entrants compete in teams, relay-style, or as individuals, and support boats follow along. When the gun sounds, paddlers take off downwind over swells up to 12 feet that can carry them hundreds of yards at once. Foil racers are typically the fastest, completing the crossing in 4 hours or less.

The race has always drawn world-class athletes from all over the planet, and this year poses no exception. Australia’s Stewart McLachlan and Harriet Brown will paddle in the Prone division. Hawaiians Josh Riccio and Annie Reickert will compete in SUP and Foil, respectively. And New Zealand’s Annabel Anderson will ride Wing Foil. All hold prestigious decorations in their respective disciplines.

This year’s M2O will also draw plenty of fresh faces, organizers said, including first-time competitors from the race’s recently incepted Virtual Edition. (The Virtual race also returns for a 16-mile paddle this summer, “Anytime, Anywhere, on Anything.”)

“We are so excited for the response and momentum for our return to racing this summer. Over half of the athletes entered are first-time entrants, mostly in the Prone divisions, which is a testament to the renewed growth in the sport,” Shannon Delaney, the director of the race, said in a press release. “I have a feeling some amazing stories, feats, and new world champions will come out of the channel this year.”

Race fans can visit the Moloka’i 2 O’ahu website for more information, or follow the race on YouTube or its various social channels.

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