Serena said that she talked her husband into doing the 63km relay late last year, after he had just got back into paddling after an eight-year layoff.
“He was a bit hesitant, but we started training together in January and then raced in the Takapuna Beach Cup OC1 24km relay in February, which we placed first in for the mixed masters,” Serena said.
She said that it has been an enjoyable experience for the duo, from the training in the lead up, to sharing nerves just prior to the relay, to the actual race itself.
The conditions on the day were positive, with what she estimated to be a 15-20 knot northeasterly, which she described as great surfing conditions – a change from the Rarotonga conditions they were practising in.
“We had some pretty awesome rides, just flying downhill on the waves,” said Serena. “For us having trained in Raro in usually hot and flat conditions, it was a treat having some surf.
“The canoe we borrowed, an Ares, was a beautiful canoe to paddle also. We’ve been paddling the old Hurricane canoes back home, which are nothing like these new canoes out now, which are so responsive in the water.”
Serena said that it was an interesting time with their changes, where the relieving paddler jumps into the water and the incoming paddler paddles up and changes over, as they had to adjust their seat each time while also holding onto their paddles.
“It was not the most efficient changes.”
As they neared the finish line they found the conditions to get a bit sticky, the bumps more difficult, although she had heard about how challenging the channel was, which is reflected in overall slower times over the past few years.
When they reached the finish line, they did not know how they had done relative to other teams.
“When you cross the channel you all blast off the start line, and then the field spreads out pretty quickly,” Serena explained.
“Some paddlers go more north, some go south, some straight line, so we pretty much for the most part kept a straight line, probably a bit more north than others we saw, then you have paddlers converging on you in the last 10km or so as you hit the coast.”
Local knowledge of the area played a huge part in the race, knowing the lines and where to milk it, Serena said.
The finish line was at Kaimana beach in Waikiki, and with it in sight they had to go up another gear over the last few 100 metres, and watched as a racer beside Conrad got tumbled over by a wave.
“We were so happy and stoked to finish, so happy to have done it together, and then at prizegiving that night it was a bonus surprise to hear that we placed first in our division.
“We feel very grateful having this opportunity, and big thanks to my mum Lynnsay who is a huge support for us, and also to Ray Preston who helped us with our training programme.”
The Hunters were also joined by Paka Worthington (director of Paka’s Pearls) who provided fantastic support from their boat.
“It was a tough, long paddle, but we had such a blast together, the support on the boat too was awesome,” said Serena.
“It’s such an experience, and is definitely a bucket list one the Molokai channel, whether you do it solo or in relay.”