Rachel Clarke, right, has won the pinnacle of ocean ski kayaking, the women’s section in the Molokai Surf Ski World Championships in Hawaii.
The race is a 51km downwind paddle riding the huge swells from Molokai, across the Kaiwi channel (Channel of Bones) to Hawaii Kai on the island of Oahu.
She completed the distance in four hours 33 minutes, finishing 10 mins ahead of her nearest female rival, Australia’s Lisa Wadling.
“It was by far the hardest race I have done. It was not only challenging (physically), it was a mental game as well,” she said.
The air temperature was 28C and conditions were not what contestants wanted.
“The wind was only about five knots, however, there were some good runners to chase down. Towards the end of the race it was quite tricky as there was a large southern swell on China wall. I knew it was huge so I went wide around the surf towards the channel.”
Clarke says her support boat played a huge role in the race, carrying extra fluids, snacks and acting as a guide for the first hour of the race as she couldn’t see the island she was heading for.
The overall winner was South African Hank McGregor who completed the race in 3 hours 35 mins, beating Australia's Clint Robinson, the second place-getter, by 23 seconds.
Clarke, 24, who won New Zealand’s prestigious King of the Harbour race this year, started surf life saving when she was five and began distance paddling four years ago.
In the lead up to the event in Hawaii, she stepped up her training to six days a week, combining ski paddling with cross-training, gym workouts, running and swimming.