Red Beach lifeguard Rachel Clarke is undaunted by the prospect of a 51km ski paddle across one of the toughest sea crossings in the world.
The former national surf lifesaving Ironwoman champion heads for Hawaii this month with the goal of winning the Molokai to Oahu ski paddle at the Molokai World Championships.
Paddlers from a number of countries face powerful currents and can surf for hundreds of metres atop swells that can reach heights of more than three metres, in an attempt to cross the 51.5 km (32 miles) of treacherous ocean known as the Ka’iwi Channel, of the Channel of Bones.
The race on 18 May begins on the island of Molokai and finishes on Oahu Island. Clarke is the only female paddler from New Zealand in the race, although there are two Kiwi men entered.
“I’m definitely up for the challenge,” insists Clarke, a 24 year old who has been in the police force for two and a half years.
In the lead up to the event, Clarke has stepped up her training to six days per week, combining ski paddling with cross-training, gym workouts, running and swimming.
On her ocean ski she has paddled distances varying from 8km to 40km which was the distance covered from Takapuna to a circuit of Motutapu Island and back to Takapuna.
“I did this session with a group of guys who do long-distance paddling and completed it in three hours 40 mins,” she added. Most ski sessions have been done with other paddlers.
“Competing in the Molokai has been my goal for a while. I’ve been told by many people who have entered it that it’s a great experience,” she said, citing former top paddler Katie Pocock who has done it twice.
The Molokai Challenge comes at a cost, around $8,000 in total which covers air fares, entry fee, accommodation, ski hire and the cost of a support boat.
“I’d like to thank all those who have sponsored and supported me, including family and friends.”