Jonny Skolnick Clears Ka’iwi Channel in World Paddleboard Championships

Aug 01, 2018
Courtesy of: Molokai-2-Oahu Jonny Skolnick smiles after crossing the finish line in the 22nd annual Molokai-2-Oahu World Paddleboard Championships in Hawaii on July 29.

Since its inception in 1997, Jonny Skolnick had dreamed of one day being part of the prayer circle prior to the start of the Molokai-2-Oahu World Paddleboard Championships. At 6:30 a.m. local time on July 29, Skolnick gathered with the hundreds of other competitors for the pre-race pulé, or Hawaiian prayer.

“The whole experience was everything I had imagined and more,” said Skolnick, who completed the 32-mile paddleboard race across the Ka’iwi Channel in seven hours, 26 minutes, 34 seconds. “I didn’t even allow myself to visualize the finish because I was so caught up in that moment. It was something I had wanted to do my entire life and there I was, with all the other competitors as we gave thanks to our respective higher powers. That meant the world to me.”

Some 45 minutes later, Skolnick set off from Kepuhi Beach on the island of Molokai for the paddleboard ride of his life, and for the first 10 kilometers the 31-year-old Ship Bottom lifeguard was right near the lead with the stock-paddleboard frontrunners. However, the chore of paddling through unfamiliar waters on an unfamiliar board, against a current that hampered even the best paddlers in the world, eventually wore on him.

He reached the 20-kilometer mark in just about 2½ hours and slowed down considerably from there, reaching the 30-kilometer mark in 3:51:25 and later the 40-kilometer mark in 5:29:25.

“It was way harder than I expected,” Skolnick said. “There were times you’d catch a run in the current, but then all of a sudden you’re going backward. With about 8 miles left, everything just worked against me. Plus, the board I was on, I’d never paddled that kind of board, and it felt like I was correcting a lot. It was a huge challenge, and it was very frustrating.”

Still, after Skoklnick passed Spitting Cave at the extreme southeastern point of the island of Oahu, then made the northward turn into Kui Channel and headed for the finish line at Maunalua Bay Beach Park, the reality of what he had just done settled in.

“I definitely didn’t expect it to take seven hours,” Skolnick said with a laugh. “I guess it confirmed I’m not the best paddler in the world. I knew that beforehand, so I wasn’t supposed to be the best. But it’s the hardest paddle race in the world, and I was here doing it. It was really cool to be part of it.”

Ultimately, Skolnick finished 115th overall – 41st among prone paddlers and 23rd in the stock paddleboard division. He was fifth in the men’s 30-39 stock paddleboard category. Australian Matt Bevilacqua, the three-time defending paddleboard champion, won in 5:05:27 in the unlimited division, while countrymate Stewart McLachlan won the stock paddleboard division in 5:33:26.

“I’m a little sore, and have the worst rashes of my life,” Skolnick said. “My toes, knees and chest are so torn up, but it was an unbelievable experience. Molokai is gorgeous, and you paddle in the bluest water you can ever imagine. I’m going to go back and do way better next time.”

To Skolnick’s surprise, several native Long Beach Islanders who currently reside in Hawaii were at the finish line to cheer him on as he glided toward shore.

“I didn’t know they were going to be there, so that was really awesome, to have people I knew at the finish cheering for me,” he said. “But the other thing I really appreciated was the whole community there. Everybody there loves and has a deep respect for the ocean, and they’re just cool and love to enjoy life. The whole journey is something I’ll remember forever.”

— David Biggy

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