Published in Moon Over Haleakala
Seven minutes and 23 seconds. That was the pace per mile of legendary Maui waterman Dave Kalama in this past month’s Naish Paddle Championships held on the 9.54 mile course from Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor.
When you think about it, there are a lot of people who can’t even run a mile in 7:23. In fact, in last year’s Hana Running Relays, 109 of the 127 teams failed to have a faster mile pace than 7:23. Far more complex than putting one foot in front of the other, a downwind run on a stand-up paddleboard requires balancing on an oversized board nearly a mile offshore, all the while being buffeted by 20 knot winds and weaving amidst rolling ocean swells that are hell bent on flipping you over. Needless to say, the competitors who tackle the annual Maliko Run are considered to be some of the finest water men and women on the planet
Walking through a rain-soaked Maliko Gulch on the morning on July 18th, the entire coastline along the rock strewn beach was a veritable Who’s Who for some of the world’s top watermen. Names like Kalama, Kerbox, Trudon, Mitchell, Moller, Alexander, and Menelau all intermingled with other local entrants in preparation for what is considered by many in the sport to be one of the finest downwind runs on the planet.
With a record 204 entrants from 6 countries competing in both the stand up and prone paddle divisions, for the first time in the event’s history a staggered start was issued inside of the bay in order to accommodate the ever-growing number of participants. In the end, however, it was Dave Kalama who crossed the finish line first at Kahului Harbor in an overall time of 1:13:48, a mere 23 seconds ahead of Ha’iku’s Livio Menelau.
Menalau—who actually edged out Kalama in this past May’s OluKai paddleboard race held on a shorter course—in a nod of respect to one of the sport’s pioneer’s simply attributed his second place finish to the fact that “the difference between me and Dave is that he is Dave…he is one of the best paddlers in the world”.
Kalama on the other hand—who was unable to finish last year’s event due to a broken piece of equipment—admitted he was “very happy” to be able to come back and win this year’s event after so much hard training since last year’s race. With respect to being able to win such a prestigious race on his home island of Maui, Kalama let on to the sentiment that “if you’re smart you cherish times like these, because they don’t come around very often”. Perhaps prophetically, Kalama likened the sport’s explosion in popularity to that of longboard surfing in the 1950s and ‘60s, where you not only have a new sport that appeals to a wide range of people, but one in which the myriad capabilities, innovations, and advancements in the sport are seemingly endless.
While it’s no doubt that it’s an exciting time to be a stand up paddler, it’s not just the men that are pushing the boundaries of the sport. Overall women’s champion Andrea Moller of Ha’iku—who posted an impressive 10th place finish overall only 8:23 behind Kalama—firmly believes that with a little bit of training and determination “any woman can do it” and it isn’t a sport that’s only for the boys. Seeing as 10 of the top 100 finishers were women paddlers, it appears that Andrea could easily be right. Asked if she plans on beating Kalama anytime soon, Moller tongue-in-cheek boasts “sure I will, in maybe 20 years, if he gets 20 years older and I stay the same as I am now”.