Put the Olukai paddle race on your bucket list
Tomorrow, April 29th, some of the world’s best downwind paddlers will meet in Maliko Gulch on Maui’s North Shore for the 9th Annual Olukai Ho’olaule’a – eight miles of downwinding bliss from the Gulch to the beach at Kanaha. But the word Ho’olaule’a means celebration, and this event is a celebration of the ocean and the paddling lifestyle and it’s open to all, not just the elites. Here’s why it should be on your wish list of events to do.
I may be biased, since the Valley Isle is the place I call home. But the saying is “Maui No Ka Oi” which means Maui is the best. There is something for everyone here. So if you make this a family vacation, there is plenty to do besides paddle. The event itself has a fun paddle suitable for all ages and skill levels, too.
If you love to downwind, this is the place to do it. The Maliko Run is consistent, thrilling, challenging, fun and with practice, attainable. If you are new to it, best to hook up with legend Jeremy Riggs or the amazing Suzie Cooney and get some coaching first. Like Mordor, you don’t just simply walk into the Maliko Run. But with the right help, and attention to safety, training, and respect for the conditions, you can do it.
The after party is amazing. There’s a luau with fantastic musical entertainment like Paula Fuga or The Green. You can mix and mingle and talk story with the pros and the locals all in the beautiful setting of Kanaha Beach Park.
The Olukai is a two-day event. The sup races are first, then on Sunday, the OCs have a go. If you’re not paddling, the spectating is a blast. You can stand on the bluffs above the Gulch and watch the thrilling start, then hop in the car and drive down to Hookipa Beach Park and watch the sailing outriggers go by, then beat them down to the finish line and high five the likes of Travis Grant or Dave Kalama as they finish.
Yes, that’s right. Your swag bag includes a pair of Olukai flip flops, or slippahs, as they are called in Hawaii. The sandals might just cost more than your race entry.
The weekend following the Olukai is the Paddle Imua, which is sponsored by the good folks at Bluesmiths and benefits Imua Familiy Services. The money raised supports a summer camp for island kids. Those kids put leis around your neck at the finish and it’s a great, grassroots vibe. Smaller than the Olukai but two miles longer, the race ends in Kahului Harbor. If you’re going all the way to Hawaii, you might as well stay and do this race too.
Sea turtles. Specifically Maui greens. You are likely to encounter some on the Maliko Run. It’s always amazing to see them swimming in the open ocean and it’s part of the magic of Hawaii.
North Shore from the Water
Maui is gorgeous, but seeing her from the water, that’s special. How many people get to do that???? You will never forget the sight of Haleakala towering over your left shoulder, or the West Maui Mountains rising up in all their green and purple glory in front of you as you line up to come in through the reef at the finish.
The Run up the beach
You know you want to superman dive over it like Connor Baxter. You know you do.
Ululani’s Shave Ice
Get it with ice cream. You just did Maliko. You earned it!