At only 14, Oahu’s Toa Pere has made it clear he’s the next generation of North Shore waterman. In the winter, he surfs. In the summer he paddles. His biggest goal? Be the youngest to ever make the solo paddle from Molokai to Oahu.
This year, he made that pipe dream a reality. This is his personal account of the paddle.
TOA PERE, TEST PILOT, OCEAN ATHLETE
“A paddle of a lifetime, the Molokai to Oahu solo is the pinnacle of prone paddleboarding.
The journey of training to actually doing the race is an amazing experience of sacrifice and fun.
It all started in the spring when I asked my parents. I wanted to be the youngest to ever race across the channel on a prone paddleboard. They said no haha. My Dad had done it on a paddleboard solo many times. He won and held the record for the fastest stock paddleboard crossing for ten years. My Mom had done the team twice and won both times. My Dad said he knew the pain of the channel and didn’t want me doing it. They caved when I pitched my training to them and agreed that if they thought I wasn’t ready, they could pull the plug on it at any point.
I gave up a lot. I sacrificed hang times with friends, trips and sleep! I am a member of Ka La Hui Kai canoe club and did many long distance runs in the 6-man and 1-man canoe. We went to Tahiti in June and did a 40 mile race. I did solo long distance runs with my Dad escorting me on the jet ski or in a surf ski. I jumped in with a training crew on the North Shore. I got a lot of great advice and help from Australian paddler and coach Mick Di Betta. In order to prepare for the Molokai, you feel like you have to prepare for the worst because the conditions are different every year.
The time came and my parents gave me the green light. The feeling of flying over to Molokai with a one way ticket… knowing you have to paddle back gives me butterflies. Once we landed on Molokai, we were dropped off at our rental. We wanted to film going into the rental but we left the keys inside. My dad tells me to not close the door all the way, but I didn’t listen and closed it. We were scrambling because all of our stuff was in there. The rental had a deck and a bottom level we went to climb up onto the deck. There was a guy staying under us and he happened to have a ladder in his room. Problem solved. Once we got to the room we communicated with our friend and escort driver Robby Solmssen. Once we were all prepped we had the rest of the day to rest and think about the thirty two miles of ocean ahead.
The morning of Molokai, the special morning pule taking in the Ka’iwi Channel and what a special place, making sure everything is in place, seeing all the escort boats off the shore and racers everywhere are all great parts of the race to show the start of the journey.
The race start at 7:30 is unforgettable, lining up with some of the greatest paddlers in the world anticipating the start. The green flag has risen, trying not to burn all your energy on the sprint out to the wind line is the main priority. Once I got to the wind line, the surf and bumps/swells started to come through. Amazing it was like a skatepark surfing on every bump, going as fast as possible without using all your energy is the fun section of the race. The pain hasn’t set in yet. It was amazing almost the whole way I was surfing bumps and swells.
There were a couple of hiccups mid channel, like a flying fish as big as my water bottle flew full speed at my bottle holder. I was so surprised because it actually shook the board and that fish was huge! Had smaller Malolo (flying fish) attacks closer to the end of the channel. Except they weren’t flying at the water bottle holder, they were flying at me! Took some shots from the fish then continued on in the channel.
Nearing the end, the last hour, major pain and fatigue sets in. It is always the hardest when you can see the finish. Coming down to the last mile to the finish was in full head winds. But the feeling of seeing the big orange buoys at the finish line is unlike any other. The last strokes through the water to pass through the buoys, then a feeling of adrenaline rushed through your body and pure happiness. The crowd, my family and so many close friends were cheering. My Dad, Uncle and little brother did a haka for me. It was a truly amazing experience and I want to keep coming back to get the experience and feeling of the race every year. Hopefully win some of them too!