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The Kaiwi Channel Six-Man MOLO

Sometimes referred to as the “Six-Man Molo,” this race may be the hardest challenge of it’s kind. This year the women's competition was held on September 23rd, the men's on October 7th.

To be successful, the members of the team must completely endorse, live and breathe the Power of Appreciation: the Want to be present, the eagerness to embrace challenges and the desire to battle.

To Want It:

A growth mind–set that allows you to operate at acceptance: work hard, seek and accept feedback, learn from bad performances and losses, debrief on a weekly basis and reframe negative experiences when needed.

To Embrace It:

A process that allows you to find joy/value in challenges. You become fully engaged in the moment, prepared to give your best effort, able to execute the plan, and complete each segment. You are also able to accept your role and contribute to the team effort.


To Battle:

An attitude that welcomes the opportunity to be competitive when it counts the most. Your complete presence allows you to paddle with enthusiasm, express passion and be satisfied with the results of your efforts. You are capable of creating the Power of Flow under extreme pressure.

Travis Grant speaks to the ability to battle, “to work together, giving the best effort you can to make the boat go as fast as it can.” And Donna Kahakui speaks to the flow, “The idea is to create a rhythm that encourages speed with grace, enjoying the flow and diversity of every moment.” 

The Race:

When I listen to the competitors talk about this race, I’m always impressed by:

  • the extreme expectations that come with training and competing in this event.
  • the energy, endurance and mental fitness required to get the job done, give your best effort and possibly win.
  • the ability to deal with all of the expectations and learn and grow and keep wanting to get better.

This past year I became interested in what the motivates the competitors to invest so much time and energy to make the team, gain the strength and endurance to paddle 41 miles in all conditions, to become TEAM and to learn to be competitive. I spoke to a wide range of paddlers and asked them:

“What about this extreme challenge makes you feel grateful?”

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Hunter Pflueger

Age 19, 15+ crossings

Well known for his devotion to the sport and his ability to take it upon himself to pick up the pace under enormous pressure.

Team: Outrigger Ka Lahui Kai Open Men’s Crew

“Paddling the Molo is the highlight of the 6­–man season. It’s why we train the long hours over summer and then come together to demonstrate that we have put in the work. It’s just our team and me for 41 miles across one of the ‘narliest’ and most unpredictable channels and I love every second of it!”

Dale Hope

Age 65, 3 crossings

An elite paddler that remains extremely active in the Ocean.

Team: OCC

“I was obsessed. I grew up in awe of all the guys that came before us and had won in hand made Koa Canoes. The main reason was I love to paddle and I love to be part of a team… especially the one that wins.”

Malia Boyd

Age 49, 4 crossings

A hard-working professional, a devoted mother of two teenage girls that loves to compete and still finds to train all year long.

Team: OCC

“This year, having my people at the finish line after what ended up being a particularly grueling race instantly reminded me of the real reasons I do the channel: for the love, for the ohana, and for the tradition. But true growth comes from feeling pain and working though it, experiencing self-doubt and overcoming it--and sometimes just surviving something you kinda think you won't. I'm definitely still processing this year’s 41-mile journey and all the things I got out of it: I know the lessons will keep bubbling up for days, and maybe even weeks to come. And that learning is yet another gift of the channel I feel grateful for.”

Billy Balding

Age 54, multiple crossings

 A super solid Ocean athlete that is still charging surfing, paddling and snow boarding in extreme conditions!

"I’ve made it part of my life to cross the channel every year in some form of competition: OC1, OC6 or solo stock paddleboard. I’ve won a few, which is nice but the camaraderie I have for my teammates and competitors remains one of the greatest feelings I have had in life. I’ve fought like a warrior to the end of every race I’ve ever done. I love the ocean and the drive to compete is DEEP. I will continue to be a part of all things Kaiwi!"

Kaya Lee

Age 17, first crossing

An excellent student athlete, she has excelled in paddling, kayaking and water–polo. She is headed to the University of Sydney to study Veterinary Medicine.

Team: Outrigger Canoe Club

“Participating in Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Molo) is truly a life­–changing event. As a crew you can only prepare so much. You go to practice to work on blend, and you cross-train to build endurance and mental toughness. But nothing can prepare you for the conditions of the ocean, wind, and your team on the day of the race. All you can do is hope you individually prepared enough, and built up a strong connection with your crew. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience just how amazing and powerful the ocean can be and challenge myself in this way.”

Cherene Ching

Age 44, 6 crossings

Cherene is a story about having the devotion to over come a serious injury and having the motivation to learn how to steer and paddle well enough to make the team.

Teams: Marina Del Rey Outrigger and Hui Nalu

“I started paddling in 2002 with Marina del Rey Outrigger canoe club and have been hooked ever since. Soon after I told myself I’d love to cross the channel once, just once in my life. It’s taken a lot of dedication, putting myself out there to be tested, pushing through bumps along the way (discovering I have a spinal condition), being surgery free, trying new things, constantly growing as paddler and steerswoman. I’m grateful to have completed six crossings, and I hope to successfully accomplish more in the future. For this race I love the dedication, positive energy, athletic growth, perseverance, trust in your program, coaches, teammates, and yourself to come together on race day. Every year I strive for a personal best. In 2018 I feel our crew surprised ourselves with our performance, and it only motivates me to do what I can to improve even more.”

Travis Grant

Age 36, 12 crossings

By far one of the strongest and mentally toughest Ocean Athletes I have ever known.

Outrigger Ka Lahui Kai Open Men’s Crew

“This race is such a fun challenge. It’s about 9 guys working together. It’s a long way but since it’s done in intervals you enjoy it more. It’s a sprint and a marathon. When you are in the canoe it’s about working together giving the best you can to make the boat go as fast as you can. Then you switch out and recover on the escort boat. You form a bond with your teammates during the race and the power you feel together at the end is very rewarding. I do the race to be part of the adventure and challenge myself to be a good team member.”

Matt Kresser

Age 52, 8 crossings

An excellent endurance athlete, he has competed in Ironman and Triathlons Events at the highest level.

Team: Lokahi Canoe Club

“Racing Molo is a barometer of my passion and pride for our unique sport of OC6. Every finish demonstrates my commitment and dedication to my team and paddling in general. The race and the challenge bring out the best in me. I love the work and I love team. I also appreciate all of the fellowship with old friends and new acquaintances from all around. The race itself demands so much hard work, cooperation and support from every one involved to run smoothly: the coaches, crews, escort drivers, officials and support staff. For me personally, I know going in that there will pain and that I will get it through it by focusing on every stroke, thought, and emotional connection to the journey as part of the team experience. This race and our sport inspire to be ready for next years race.”

Donna Kahakui

Age 54, 35 crossings

Donna is best known and highly recognized for her Hawaiian Island environmental paddle to bring awareness to the need to care for the Ocean.

She Won the Na Wahine with OCC in 1992

Team: Outrigger Canoe Club & Lanikai Canoe Club

To cross the Kaiwi is a gift. Six paddlers moving as one unit in a canoe is an amazing feeling as One cannot control what anyone else in the canoe is doing - you just have to trust, believe and know that you are moving in unison as One. During the race, the crew must find each other in movement and power but what many forget is the need to be one with the ocean. The idea is to create a rhythm that encourages speed with grace...enjoying the flow and diversity of every moment. The challenge for any team is to move as One unit in focus and determination throughout the race...the One that can do this best gets the added benefit of winning.

I have been fortunate to paddle with the best and against the very best. Each time I paddle across Kaiwi I give thanks as that is the gift....To be able to paddle in the same path of my ancestors is an indescribable feeling. For me the ocean is a place of peace and balance that can benefit each individual paddler who chooses to take on this challenge. It’s an incredible journey!”

Mike Field and Thibert Lussiaa are experienced paddlers that now serve as escorts to the Outrigger Ka Lahui Kai Junior Men's (16 to 18 years old) program.

Mike Field

“Paddling in general has given me so much, especially when I was a Junior paddling for Jimmy Pflueger. Working as an escort with T–Bear for Alan Pflueger is about sharing our experience with those kids that have put a lot of training and discipline into their sport. We help them to refine their efforts so they can be their best under amazing pressure to perform and make a positive contribution to their team. I love to see these guys work hard and go beyond what’s they thought was possible in a race. To me this is a life time experience for them and a possible foundation for doing well in life.”

Thibert Lussiaa

“Crossing the Moloka’i Channel is definitely the ultimate opportunity for the young competitors to mature as paddlers. For Mike and I to witness this maturity is very gratifying. I feel that we have a purpose to be there in this time to help them overcame their personal struggles and to keep moving forward to the finish line. This process is never about the results but more about the ability to settle–down in the face of discomfort and pain and learn to give their best efforts.”