The Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships really is the super bowl of paddling. Each year, the best of the best of the best the rest show up on the small island of Molokai to take on the channel of bones. The channel is 32 miles of currents, swells, and is one of the most feared bodies of water in the world. What makes it so gnarly? It is deep. Really deep and it gets deep really quickly. Also, it is smack in the path of the ever present trade winds. Sometimes it can be a good run, but most times it is a side chop suffer fest. As big wave pioneer and all around waterman, Dave Kalama said of the finish, “it is the only race that gets harder as you get closer to the finish”. Why? When you finish you are fighting the refraction of water bouncing off Oahu, a current line and a head wind. In an interview one year Kalama called it ” Cruel and unusual punishment”.
The race started as a group of paddlers and surfers who just wanted to try it. That was 18 years ago and it was a handful of guys. Now, it is a world class event with international media coverage. This year after the race, we had footage going to ESPN, Australian National Broadcasting for the Morning Shows, and crews from all over the world shooting.
As the official producer for the race, it is a daunting task to cover it every year. But life is made a little easier with the help of Ocean Paddler Television in Hawaii and their capability to cover with their own boats and (gulp) helicopter. The day after the event is a made dash of hard drives being copied and cards being captured so we can collaborate on footage together.
I usually get to Hawaii a few days before the event to help the race committee (a small team of about 5 people handling 300 paddlers and 200 or so escort boats) with setting up registration and other pieces of the race. The first shooting day is the registration at Dukes, then we run off to the island. The Saturday before the race is always hectic trying to get in all of the athlete interviews. In previous years I have always over shot these interviews and this year, I committed to keeping everyone under 5 minutes. Mission accomplished – we ran interviews from 10am to 6pm…I shot over four and a half hours of interview footage featuring not just the top talent in the sports of paddleboard and SUP – but also a lot of the relay and solo people just going out to do the race. Those people are interesting to me, they have spent thousands to get here and are not doing it for any other reason but to do it. It’s special.
The morning of the race starts at 4:30am with packing gear and prepping for the swim to the boat. Yes you swim to the boat. There is no dock. So everything has to be in Pelican cases and dry bags. Luckily this year we had a ski to help taxi us out, but usually, it is a morning dip in the ocean. After the prayers and final instructions, we load up, run to the start and wait. Race morning is chaotic- from a production stand point, my goal is beach side interviews, shoot B roll and try to capture what it is like to be on the beach in the morning of the race. Not sure I have ever really done that. But hey, you have to try.
The rest of the day is spend bobbing around the channel trying not to fall on top of the other shooters on the boat. The water there is rough, very rough and when you are moving at around 5mph, you feel every bump. Shooting from a boat is a science in itself. I try not to drink coffee that morning — at least too much. One year I over did it and you can see it in the footage. I think boat shooting is by far the hardest thing you can do, and I have tried every device you can imagine to not get any shake – it’s ocean and you cannot beat it.
Once we wrap up the channel shooting, i scurry to the hotel to get out a Video News Reel for the international press. I usually don’t even shower till this reel is done. It is really a feat to accomplish getting footage exported within a few hours of the event. It was made a little easier this year as I used Adobe Premiere which natively handled all of the different camera formats – unlike my old Final Cut that would have required a bit of transcoding.
The next day, I spent the whole day once more in editing working on a high light reel…this again was done in Adobe, it was my third ever project in this software and I have some learning to do – that’s for sure (such as audio leveling haha).