After a rainy summer, Kauai’s glorious Na Pali Coast stood out in lush green tones in stark contrast to the red jerseys, neon gear, hats and sunglasses worn by the competitors of The 8th Annual Na Pali Race.
The energy buzzed as a multitude of paddlers paced around Ha’ena Beach Park getting ready to “Paddle for the Pali”. A seventeen mile downwind elite paddle race that journeys along the cliffs of the amazing Na Pali Coastline traveling from Pu’kas all the way to Polihale State Park.
The focus of the race is to raise funds to support the Nā Pali Coast ʻOhana; a grassroots non-profit foundation dedicated to the preservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Nāpali Coast State Park.
As if on cue, the auspicious trade winds began to blow, right after a beautiful Hawaiian Blessing was sent from a praying circle were more than 200 people held hands under the scorching sun.
The slight breeze quickly built into a consistent 25-30 NE wind while competitors from all over the world prepared to start the race; among them were familiar watermen faces, like Lifeguard Bruce Stein, Firefighter Marc Beeby and courageous local surfer Bryce Baker, who decided to enter the race on a whim and without any prior training.
To participate in the event is a testament of audacity as pro surfer and event organizer Evan Valiere concedes,“The Na Pali Coast is known to have strong currents, strong winds, and dangerous ocean conditions.The coastline is only accessible by boat or helicopter for a rescue, there is no cell phone service along the coastline. Paddlers must have both ocean and paddleboard experience to participate in the Na Pali Race.”
Uncle Barca and the water patrol lifeguards expertly maneuvered around the swell ferrying the photographers and their cameras unto the boats while dozens of chase boats, lifeguards, jet skis, canoes and paddle boards crowded the beach in an organized commotion.
As soon as the race started, Kiwi Hydro-foiler Armie Armstrong took the lead. He was the sole competitor on the Foil Fun Run, pioneering this category using a 6ft 8’ board with a hydrofoil. He swiftly lifted off with the wind and nearly disappeared ahead of everyone, except for the Holopuni Sailing Canoe teams that blazed along the coast reaching speeds of more than 15 mph.
By Hanakapi’a Beach, Tahitian SUP competitor Puyo Titouan held a steady pace leading the way by a few minutes, with Travis Grant trailing close behind. Both racers implemented various techniques, paddling up towards the peak of the waves and surfing or gliding the waves down wind.
Armstrong comfortably continued to lead the way until about a mile past Milioli’i where the wind direction switched into a strong head wind. That put an end to the lift of his foil and he had to paddle his board on his stomach all the way to the finish line where a few competitors began to pass him.
Puyo Titouan won the race being the first competitor to cross the finish line with a time of 01:56:03.56 Travis Grant place second 02:03:03.18 and 17 year old competitor Alexandre Bicrel crossed the line in third place with a time of 02:11:13.32 .Vincent Verhoeven got in fourth 02:15:32.18 and Nico Schenk in fifth 02:19:41.23.
Armie Armstrong followed crossing the line in sixth place with a time of 02:24:52.73 winning his division.
A few minutes behind, Mariko Strickland Lum was the first female competitor to cross the line in a SUP Stock finishing with a time of 02:30:42.55. Jaecey Suda finished second in her division with a time of 03:08:17.77
Paddling prone, Kanesa Duncan Seraphin from Hanalei won her division with an impressive time of 02:42:07.45. In second place DJ O’Brien arrived with a time of 03:00:59.25.
In the Three Person Team Stand Up Paddleboard division, Kanai Sharsh, Paul Zacharias and Jane McKee won first place with a time of 02:42:17.60
At the finish line at Polihale, there was plenty of shade, water coolers, Purps Hydration, fuel drinks, fresh fruit and snacks for everyone. Local surfer Bryce Baker was the last one to cross the finish line with a time of 04:21:48.07 paddling prone on his board.
During sunset at the Awards Ceremony in the Kekaha Neighborhood Center a delicious pot luck preceded some great looking awards and amazing raffle prizes kept everyone drawing tickets late into the full moon night!
This years sponsors were Hanalei Surf School, Capt Andy’s Sailing Adventures, Kuhio Auto Group, Kuhio Kustoms, Kalapaki Joe’s, Oliver Design Studios, Reside Kauai Real Estate Sales, Kauai Islands of Discovery and Riviera Paddlesurf.
A big shout out to Evan Valiere and his beautiful wife Brittney, and to all the volunteers and organizers who helped put together this great event.
For results go to www.napalirace.com