Weather Forces Postponement of Olukai paddle race
For the first time in the nine-year history of this iconic downwind race, the Olukai was postponed a day because of poor conditions, making it unsafe to run a race of this magnitude.
In addition to an uncharacteristic North wind, rain moved in across much of Maui Friday night, prompting flash flood alerts, and sending large amounts of storm water runoff coursing through the stream that feeds into Maliko Gulch. The rain continued through the morning and into the afternoon, creating visibility issues as well. Surf on the outside of the reef at the entrance to Kanaha Beach Park, where the race finishes, was also an issue.
Race director Archie Kalepa told Distressed Mullet that safety was and always is the main concern at the Olukai.
“Ideally, this particular race is known for its downwind run. And that wasn’t happening today. We had northerly winds, which were onshore, and it was very rainy, very dark and very cloudy,” he explained. “So the concern was that if we did do the race, more than likely a lot of people would end up washed up onshore, scattered up and down the coast.”
Kalepa said that with 300 standup paddlers registered for the race, that dangerous scenario could materialize quickly, straining rescue resources. Weather permitting, the race for both sup and outriggers will be run tomorrow, Sunday, but not from Maliko. Depending on wind and other conditions, a buoy course of the same distance -six miles – will be set up and run at the beach at Kanaha.
“Everything that we do- safety is paramount,” Kalepa said. “The safety of the racers doing this race is why this call was made, but the other thing is, we want the competitors to have a good time when they are actually on the course. And for them to paddle into the wind is not fun. The thing is, we cannot control Mother Nature, but we can control our actions. So we made a brand decision to postpone the race for another day, we’ll look at what the weather has to offer us and build the race course around the conditions.”
Kalepa said input was gathered from a variety of sources, including top racers who were expecting to compete in a downwind format event.
“We wanted to get a collective opinion about what they were thinking, moving forward,”Kalepa said. “What they say means a lot to us, and it was really important for us to hear where they are coming from, and hear what’s on their minds to help us make a better decision.”
Despite the weather, which some locals say is among the worst spring weather in recent memory on Maui, race organizers worked hard to keep the party atmosphere going at Kanaha. A waffle station was set up, the luau lunch was served in the canoe hale, and folks could take a turn at pounding poi, the traditional Hawaiian starch staple made from taro root.
Fingers crossed for better conditions Sunday!