By Tetsuhiko Endo; Photograph courtesy of
It’s 32 miles from the Hawaiian island of Molokai to its northwestern neighbor, Oahu. In order to get there, you have to cross the Molokai Channel, whose Polynesian name, Ka’iwi, means “the channel of bones.” Widely considered one of the roughest ocean channels in the world, the Molokai is rife with changing currents, tidal effects, strong winds, and open ocean swells that can reach up to 30 feet. It has claimed the lives of watermen and fishermen for centuries, including that of the legendary Hawaiian big wave surfer and waterman, Eddie Aikau, who tried to paddle across the channel, on a rescue paddleboard, in a storm to get help for a capsized boat.
Paddleboarding, (not to be confused with its more popular cousin, stand up paddling --SUP) is a Hawaiian tradition that developed along with surfing but didn’t become a competitive event until the early twentieth century surf ambassador, Tom Blake, helped to re-popularize it, both in Hawai’i and in the Mainland. It involves lying or kneeling on what looks like a very long surfboard, and paddling what are often long stretches of open ocean. Although it fell out of popularity in the 70’s and 80’s it is currently seeing a resurgence.