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Current events with Connor Baxter

Stand Up Paddleboarder crushes it with 7th straight win in Maui

BY CONNOR BAXTER

The 2016 Maui-2-Molokai event was such an epic race, especially after having just returned from stand up paddleboard racing in flat water for six weeks in Europe! I came back home to Hawaii excited for this event. In the summer months, the trade-winds here are pretty much non-stop and we are in the open ocean - so water conditions here have more wind and waves and I always welcome the challenge.

I crossed the Molokai channel for the first time when I was 8 1/2 years old and I was windsurfing. I've been paddle boarding this channel since I was 14 and I definitely don't plan on stopping any time soon.

The M2M race started at 9:30 a.m. at Honolua Bay. There were a few heavy hitters such as Matt Nottage, James Casey, Livio Menelau and Vinnicius Martins on the line with me, and of course, there was Travis Grant - who I was the most worried about. We were all lined up and ready to go on the start line. When the horn blew, we all hit the gas like it was a 10 mile race. Up at the front, we had about 6 or 7 guys pushing hard in the flat water, staying together. It took about 20 minutes until we hit some good bumps. That's when I started doing my thing and pulling away from the group with Travis and Matt. The three of us stuck together for about 45 minutes and then Travis and I went into the next gear and pulled away from Matt. From that point on, it was a two-man race.

Travis and I went back and fourth for the next hour - talking a bit - but both wanting the same thing. I knew the last part of the race would be lighter winds and possibly flat, so I just put my head down, went into my own world, and started to surf the bumps. I just kept my eyes on the finish line and focused on winning my 7th title in a row on this run. The closer I got to Molokai, the bumps started getting better and better and I was in my happy place.

The next thing I knew, I had a solid gap on Travis - but it wasn't over yet. I kept the hammer down all the way to the finish line and crossed in first place with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 51 seconds.

The conditions were not too extreme, but it was a really fun run nonetheless. And, it was actually a particularly fast crossing. It was my second time to do the crossing in under three hours. Plus, I was only a few minutes shy of the 2:55:46 course record I set in 2012, so that just means I have to paddle harder next year!!

I want to thank Hammer Nutrition for all their support. Also, a big 'Mahalo' to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. You know I'll be back next year to defend my title!

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