The most direct route between two points is always a straight line, so heading from Kauai’s North Shore to the Westside is already a circuitous route. The 72-mile drive from Haena to Kekaha doesn’t appear too efficient when looking at a map, but the “end of the road” is just that, so it’s the only possible approach on four wheels.
By water, the journey is only about 17 miles. Of course, saying “only 17 miles” when the trip involves mostly shoulder muscles and no gasoline makes the drive much less strenuous in comparison — no matter how bumpy the last bit of road is.
Yet this past Saturday, a paddle would have been anyone’s best bet to get from Haena to Polihale. While vehicles had to wait out a downed tree that kept Hanalei in exile for a good portion of the day, the seventh annual Na Pali Race went off without a hitch in mostly prime conditions.
A small squall and some early morning showers seemed to put things in doubt, but the conditions quickly cleared as competitors got out on the water and started heading west.
“Thank God for wind!” said one of the stand-up paddlers, now under the friendly confines of the event tent at the Polihale finish line.
The buzz around the tent was just how great the conditions were, especially after the first three or four miles. There were some waves to contend with and many of the outrigger paddlers compared anecdotes from their efforts.
“There were some big bombs!” said one OC-1 participant. “I caught some sizzlers!” said another.
One of the day’s standouts was Terrene Black, who won the women’s SUP division and finished behind just one other stand-up overall. Black is a seasoned paddler from Syndey, Australia, but she’s a novice when it comes to this particular run.
“The conditions were epic,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve raced the Na Pali Race and I had overheard about the scenery and I’ve heard the conditions can get bad, but they were awesome.”
After competing in the Molokai to Oahu race the prior weekend, Black decided that she had enough left in the tank to give the Na Pali a go, saying that it’s always been on her bucket list.
“I’ve never been to Kauai before,” she said. “First time here and I’m just blown away. I think it’s my favorite island.”
Andrew Logreco took first place among all SUP entrants, finishing the course in a blistering 2 hours, 7 minutes, 35.69 seconds. That was more than 13 minutes better than anyone else.
Logreco competed in this event two years ago. Conditions were unanimously deemed brutal that day and the times certainly reflected it. He beat his 2014 time by more than an hour this year.
There were a number of visitors in for the race, but still many faces familiar to one another. The ideal conditions helped keep everyone’s spirits up after the race as there was plenty of razzing between friends.
“Oh, I beat Luke (Evslin),” said one of the top OC-1 finishers. “Thank God!”
Evslin turned and gave a wry smile.
More than 100 competitors entered the various divisions offered and that ohana vibe kept up as the participants headed over to the awards ceremony. Overall division winners for the day also included Manny Kulukulualani (OC-1, Men’s), Noelani Sawyer-Auger (OC-1, Women’s), Brad Rambo and Tom Gallagher (OC-2, Mixed), Kainoa Nakazawa and Darrin Cummings (Team Mixed SUP), Team Holopuni Nick Beck (Holopuni Sailing Canoe) and Robert Beatty (Fun Run Solo).
Complete race results can be found at napalirace.com.
“I just had a ball,” said Black. “Every time I was on a runner, I was just looking up at the cliffs next to me. It was amazing. I’m so glad I came.”
David Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.