Portsea SLSC paddlers planning assault on iconic Molokai

A growing group of Portsea lifesavers have begun preparations for a crack at the unofficial World Championship of ocean ski racing, the Molokai Challenge. Lead by Charlie Schall, the group has set itself the target of taking part in the 2020 edition of the race, to be held next May.


There are several things that make “Molokai” a challenge. Firstly, the conditions in the channel which is often known as the “Channel of Bones” are unique in paddling circles. Stretching 53 kilometres and plunging to a depth of 2,300 feet (701 meters), the Ka’iwi Channel has the reputation as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. The culmination of foul weather and open ocean swells pushing through the narrow canyon that is created by the two land masses of Molokai and Oahu has resulted in the destruction of entire ancient canoe fleets and claimed the lives of modern-day fisherman and watermen. This tract of water is one that is hard to prepare for, for most of our current paddling is done along the coastal fringe where we don’t feel the full power and speed of open ocean swells.
Australian surf lifesavers have a strong connection with the race, with Grant Kenny, Guy Leech, Clint Robinson, Dean Gardiner and Corey Hill all feature on the list of past winners.


Among the active Portsea members who are in training are Charlie, Dave Flockart, Matt Mahon, Peter Bolton, Simon Traynor, Marc Pizzi, Julian Grainger, Wayne Stoll, and (soon to return to Portsea!) Pete Flockart. They are being joined by as many non-members, many with a connection to the Club or the place.


The creation of this long term goal has sparked a renewal of the ski area within Portsea’s Competition team, with Charlie taking the reins as ski captain. Most of the guys competed at State Masters Championships, and we’ve seen the Club represented in ski paddling this season at the State Endurance Championships, Anglesea and Mordialloc carnivals and the State Titles, where Julian and Matt made the final of the double ski (finishing 10th or 11th) and the semis of the Open Single ski. We also saw the first of our U17 rookies Chloe Dowling and Steph Mahon having a crack. They are sure to have a few friends next year!


If you are interested in paddling a ski, or joining the group for a paddle on the bay, the Yarra or even dream of Molokai, please get in touch with Charlie via email on charlieschall01@gmail.com


If you are keen to learn more about Molokai, or watch this year’s race on 26 May: