The 25th annual Hanohano Race was a huge success. The Hanohano race runs 3 separate races over the course of one day. The day starts with 4.5mile short course which includes SUPs, OC1s and OC2s, surfskis, and kayaks. Following the finish of the short course, there is a long course of OCs and Surfskis that hit the water for 7.5mile race and a kids mini course running in conjunction. Last, the Hanohano race host one of the best race raffles anywhere in the world with items like bikes, paddles, sup boards and even a Huki OC1 or surfski.
In the short course, the surfskis, OCs, and Olympic sprint kayaks started first. The kayaks ruled the morning, battling through the start of a 7ft tide drop which created some very strong currents and eddies throughout the missions bay harbor race course. Austin Kieffer is no stranger to top finishes and easily dominated the short course field in his K1 (Sprint kayak). He was chased by a number of surf skis and OC2s for most of the race. Winning the OC2 race and coming out of a short paddling retirement was Thomas Maximus and Eric Starnes, just ahead of multiple time World Champion outrigger paddler Kai Bartlett and his partner Jack Whitcher and father son team Jay and Jaxsen Wild in 3rd. The OC1 short course saw a surprise last minute entry by 404 and Hippostick rider Ross Flemer. Originally he was scheduled to race SUP, but generously loaned his V3X Race board and Hippostick AL pro 7.5 paddle to a fellow paddler in need, whos board and paddle never arrived that day. Ross took the opportunity to jump in an OC1 with his Hippostick Tahitian Outrigger paddle instead, and was able to capture the win again Wade Williford in 2nd and Ty Aweau taking 3rd just seconds ahead of 4th and 5th.
In the hotly contested SUP race, over 140 SUP paddlers from all over California, Arizona Oregan and Nevada, arrived for a chance to knock off 404 and hippostick owner and 5 time defending champion Danny Ching to take the first big race of the year in socal. Off the line it was clear that the 404 team captain Danny Ching was is good form. Danny used his V3X and Mana blade to accelerate off the line and establish a lead from the start. Danny was closely followed by a few familiar faces include Chuck Glynn, Tyler Basher, Jake Graham, and Thomas Nilsen. The train quickly stretched into a long single file line as the group made their initial turn into the dumping outgoing tide. Running solo on the outside and trying not to get caught out of the group was young phenam Tyler Basher. He made his way from the middle of the group right up alongside, and then in front of Danny. Tyler settled in for a hot second and then decide to put a push on. This extra effort split the lead group in to the contenders and the protenders. Less than 2 miles into the race, and it was clear it was going to be just Tyler and Danny racing it out for the win. Just behind and off the draft of the two leaders, Thomas Nilsen, Chuck Glenn and anyone unlucky enough to be caught behind them slowly slipped back, knowing they were all now racing for 3rd. In the lead, Tyler and Danny traded leads worked together for the next mile, carefully navigating through the maze of surfskis, OCs, and kayaks that had started 3 minutes in front of the SUPs. Watching the two leaders, it seemed that neither one was able or willing to try and separate. It seemed as if the race would come down to a sprint finish at the end. However, with over a mile to the finish, as Danny and Tyler were over taking an OC1, Tyler broke of Danny’s wake and decided to run solo left of the slower OC1 while Danny pushed on and decided to pass right. Danny saw this split as an opportunity to make a push and put Tyler under pressure. Danny pushed hard to get around on the outside first and did. Tyler recognizing his mistake put on a huge effort to close the gap back down. He got within a few board lengths but was outlasted by Danny on the huge effort. Now running with the dumping tide, Danny swung out wide to use the current and a high cadence to slowly start pulling away. Tyler made 1 more attempt at closing that gap, but it was too late. He was in no man's land. Too far behind to chase back up, but far enough ahead of the next group to not want to wait for them. Danny and his mana blade and V3X powered away to finish just a minute in front of Tyler. Tyler was able to hold his 1 minute lead over the remainder of the main group, which had been whittled down to just young super star Thomas Nilsen 3rd and Chuck Glynn 4th.
In the women’s SUP race, the top racers lined up side by side. April Zilg, Jade Howson, Abby Baker, and Erika Benitez were some of the favorites off the start line. April was coming off an incredible 2019 season which saw her compete in every major race from Carolina Cup to Hood River, to the APP tour (finishing 2nd Overall). Her ambition in race was to participate and help out fellow team riders. As it typically does at the Hanohano race, athletes sprinted to the first left hand bend creating several opportunities for draft trains. Today is was Jade Howson leading out the pack, closely followed by Erika Benitez. Just off the back, the rest of the women worked hard to stay in contact, but slowly slipped away as they hit the outgoing tide. Going under the first bridge, the shake up in the main women’s field begin. April Zilg followed closely by fellow 404 andhippostick teammate Abby baker, had begun to slowly crawl back toward the lead group. Jade seemly noticed what was inevitably going to happen, and sat up to wait for them. As soon as the group was together, Jade put on another push which was just enough to knock Erika off the draft train and into the next group back but not strong enough to eliminate the 404/Hippostick team off April and Abby. Jade continued to pull the train for the next few miles, refusing to let anyone else take the lead. Her solid pace was eventually too much for young Abby Baker who fell off to the group just behind. Jade lead April toward the last right hand turn where it seemed to be a two person race, however, April helped coach and will her teammate Abby back into the group just in time for a long sprint finish. Jade powered to the finish line as April launch Abby to the finish. Jade maintained her power to the finish just ahead of Abby in 2nd and closely followed by April Zilg in 3rd.
The Long Course saw one of the most competitive early season OC1 races in recent memory. Lining up on the Women’s side were the normal top local names of Brandi Baskic, Cora and Julie Wolfe. They were joined by this years new names Grace Hardy and Jaimee Kimizuka and Canada native Leanne Stanely. Taking the win in dominant fashion and finishing among several of the top male racers, was Brandi Baskic. She finished over 2 minutes ahead of Grace Hardy in 2nd and Leanne Stanley in 3rd.
Typically a flat early season race, this years Hanohano long course saw more conditions then most socal races. There was a 7ft tide dropping that paddlers had to maneuver, while watching out for 3-5ft ground swell entering the harbor and occasionally breaking. This in conjunction with a little wind texturing the waters meant there was plenty of waves and swell to help push you and slow you down.
In the men’s OC1 race, we were lucky enough to have some top paddlers from Socal and Hawaii join the start line. This rarely happens outside of Hawaii, and never happens this early in the race season. The Hanohano race is quickly becoming a destination race to attend. Top paddlers from Socal Noam Elroi, Brent Campbell, Will Reichenstein, Danny Ching, and Dave Kruger got a chance to line up next to Former World Champion Kai Bartlett and Top Tahitian/Hawaiiian paddler and steersmen of the Ka Lahui Kai team, Tuarongo Cowen.
Off the start line it was clear that Hippostick owner and team manager Danny Ching was on a mission to defend his home turf. Danny shot out off the start line with his Hart Attack paddle and quickly took a sizeable 1 minute lead to find himself up front with the top surfskis and OC2. Behind him fellow hippostick rider, young Noam Elroi battled side by side with Tahitina (living in Hawaii) Tuarongo Cowen until the first turn where Tuarongo established a small lead. Following just behind them in the next pack was Will Reichenstein, Kai Bartlett, and Brent Campbell. Up front Danny continued to hold his lead of nearly a minute to the 2nd turn, while Tuarongo tried to reel him back in. Just behind the leaders, Noam Elroi and Brent Campbell were locked into a head to head battle for 3rd. The long course racers entered the harbor into a dumping tide and a building ground swell. Many races were to be decided in the last 1.5miles. Up front Hippostick Team Captain Danny played it safe, coming in the harbor, avoiding the rocks, fishing lines, waves and currents and held most of his 1 minute lead over Tuarongo (2nd) to the finish. Just behind them, several battles were going on, including the battle between Puakea Team riders, Noam Elroi and Brent Campbell for 3rd overall. Brent entered the harbor just ahead of Noam and hugged the rocks as close as possible to avoid the nearly 3mph head current. Looking ahead and seeing a small wave peak up, Noam used his strategic training and youth to break off the wall and into the current just a little bit. There, he found a small wave to ride and was able to pull back even with Brent as they rounded the final turn for a 500meter sprint to the finish line. Noam’s determination and youth were able to edge out Brent’s experience, propelling Noam into 3rd and Brent into 4th overall in the OC1. A little further back in the pack we saw an impressive performance from future champion, Hippostick Team rider and 15 year old Ethan Preuett. Ethan has been training hard for nearly 2 years and has started to make his way up through the field. He found himself in a head to head battle with many of the top paddlers in SoCal including one of his coaches Chris Cornejo. Tapping into his limited experience and unlimited fitness Ethan was able to find a wave in the harbor mouth that propelled him past Chris and into 10th place overall.