When it comes to paddleboard racing, Australia’s Jamie Mitchell owns all the major titles and records … basically, the whole 9 yards.
Now he has nine consecutive world championships to prove it.
Mitchell won the Molokai 2 Oahu World Paddleboard Championship yet again yesterday, continuing his unprecedented run of dominance in the sport.
"I don’t know, I don’t look at specific numbers in terms of goals," said Mitchell, 33. "I’m just always wanting to better myself, have a better race."
The 32-mile race across the Kaiwi Channel is considered the world championship of long-distance paddleboard racing, and nobody has come close to Mitchell in the last nine years.
In his latest victory, Mitchell completed the course from Kaluakoi, Molokai, to Maunalua Bay, Oahu, in 4 hours, 52 minutes, 45 seconds. It was about 4 minutes shy of the record he set in 2007, but still a remarkably fast time when considering the "sloppy" conditions across the channel yesterday.
"You could feel the current … just the wind and slop made it hard," Mitchell said. "It definitely wasn’t the hardest one I’ve done, (but) it wasn’t the best one. It was sort of somewhere in between."
University of Hawaii professor Kanesa Duncan Seraphin also continued her dominant run in the women’s division, winning her eighth title yesterday.
Dave Kalama of Maui was first to finish in the stand-up paddleboard division, and Andrea Moller of Maui was the first female in the SUP division.
More than 140 paddlers participated in the race.
Australians took the top three places in the traditional paddleboard division. Well behind Mitchell were Jackson English in second, and Joel Mason in third.
English’s runner-up time was 5:07:54, or approximately 1.5 miles behind Mitchell. Mason placed third in 5:15:42.
"I don’t look back," Mitchell said. "I just think that they’re right there, and that keeps me going."
English, who also placed second to Mitchell in 2008, said: "Jamie’s an absolute master out there. He’s got an extra set of arms and just nails it, and he did it again. Jamie’s the man. He set the standard a long time ago. Just to be close to him, I’m really happy."
Interestingly, Mitchell said he actually trained less this year despite relinquishing his job as a lifeguard in Australia. Sponsorships from Quiksilver clothing and Kaenon sunglasses allowed him to focus on his athletic endeavors (Mitchell is also a professional big-wave surfer). But it also required him to make several international trips for photo shoots.
"To be honest, this year was more of a challenge," Mitchell said. "With all that (sponsorship) comes more commitment and more trips overseas. I missed probably six weeks of training I usually wouldn’t miss out on, so in the back of my head, I was a little nervous today, actually."
Mitchell said he dedicated the victory to his grandmother and his fiancee’s grandmother, both of whom died this year.
Mikey Cote of Wailupe placed fourth overall in 5:17:56, and was the first finisher from Hawaii. He won the stock paddleboard division last year, and switched to the open unlimited division this year (in the stock division, all boards are 12 feet; in the open division, boards can be any size).
"I told myself I would be happy with top 10, so this is awesome," said Cote, who used a 16-foot, 10-inch, board.
While the lead pack of Australians took a northerly course, Cote was alone on a southerly route. He said it may have played a role in his top-four finish.
"I thought I would just go where the water was taking me," Cote said. "The first 25 miles, the bumps were lining up perfectly. I had no idea where anybody else was, and to be honest, I don’t know how well it helped to go that far south, but I know that I’m usually not that close to those (Australian) guys, so I’m happy with it."
Duncan Seraphin added a name — and husband — to her repertoire, but it hardly slowed her down. She completed the course in 6:02:45, well ahead of the rest of the women’s field. Joanna Bilancieri placed second in 7:21:27.
"You kind of just run your own race when you don’t know (where the competition is)," said Duncan Seraphin, 34. "I was trying to gauge off the men."
Duncan Seraphin got married last December, and her husband, Thor, was on the escort boat assisting her across the channel yesterday.
In the popular SUP division, Kalama made up for a disappointing fourth-place finish last year with an emotional victory yesterday. He finished with a time of 4:54:15.
Prior to the 2009 race, Kalama wanted to paddle in honor of Emily Haagens, who was battling cystic fibrosis. She died in May of this year.
"I really wanted to do better for Emily last year and then she passed away this year," Kalama said. "That was huge motivation for me. I felt like she was on my tail riding with me this time."
His cousin, Ekolu Kalama, placed second yesterday with a time of 5:03:13. Ekolu won the SUP division last year.
Moller won her first SUP women’s title yesterday with a time of 6:00:00. She previously won three Molokai-to-Oahu races as part of the Team Bradley women’s canoe-paddling crew.
"Any win is always a blessing," she said. "It was a really tough channel."
Jenny Kalmbach of the Big Island placed second in 6:09:50. She won the women’s SUP division last year.
Among other finishers, two physically challenged athletes completed the crossing. California’s Jeff Denholm, who uses a prosthetic arm, finished in 7:49:10; Kailua’s Mark Matheson, who is a paraplegic from the chest down, finished in 8:56:45.