With over 250 boats registered for the 2019 Maui 2 Molokai (M2M) and incredible winds predicted for the iconic 42km island crossing, the race is shaping up to be one for the record books. I have raced the M2M twice before, in 2017 and 2018. Both years, I came in feeling cocky and unstoppable and on both occasions I was beat soundly by Pat Dolan (local Hawaiian and big crossing surfski legend). Both years I came in thinking I could win the M2M and both times I made major mistakes that kept me from having the race I wanted. My mistakes boiled down to a lack of respect.

Austin Kieffer - Molokai 2019 The first year, I failed to respect the distance. This race is 42km and even in incredible winds the winning times tend to be somewhere between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes. In 2017, I was fit, strong and, after a two week training camp on Maui, I was crushing blisteringly fast downwinds leading up to the race. I may have been ready for the speed and intensity, but I was not prepared for the distance. In 2016, all the races on my calendar were around 90 minutes and with a near identical season lined up for 2017, M2M was the one long race of my year. I reasoned that I was strong enough and surfed well enough that I could handle the extra hour of racing with little to no changes in my preparation. I planned to just take plenty of fuel and, if I was well fueled, my fitness would do the rest. It feels stupid looking back at my thought process, but hindsight can only save my future races.

I lined up on race day and the event unfolded just as I anticipated. I was dictating the pace off the start, easily taking and found myself in a comfortable rhythm. I wasn’t pushing my limit (effort-wise) and the race felt comfortably within my control. This lasted for about 90 minutes. That was when Pat Dolan made his move to take the lead. I scrambled and though I countered his move and caught back up to him, the effort felt distinctly different from the first 90 minutes. I could feel my body was not responding the way I wanted. Over the next hour, I slowly lost my fire. I was able to hold it together enough to finish a strong second, only losing about a minute to charging Dolan, but it was a humbling defeat and it was not the finish sprint I had hoped for. In 2017, the M2M taught me my first lesson: in the heat and humidity of Hawaii, you need to be well and truly prepared for a 42 kilometer race or you will be left behind in the latter stages of the event.

Not to be denied, I vowed to return in 2018, ready for the distance. I spent January through April logging plenty of longer paddles and come race day, I was once again feeling confident and cocky. I was all over the distance and as that was my only handicap from the year prior, why didn’t I deserve the gold? And that is what lead to my second mistake.

I became so confident that only a single weakness stood in my way that I turned my attention towards the more prestigious Molokai Challenge in May. I decided to use M2M and my trip to Hawaii to train for the Molokai. My plan was to fly in to Maui right before the race, pick up my boat race morning and start my Hawaii training camp with a win. This time, I failed to respect the challenging conditions of Hawaii.

I have come to appreciate the fact that the water, waves, and climate of Hawaii are not things that feel natural right away. It takes time for me to adjust to a new place. Unfortunately, I used the 2018 M2M to remind myself of this fact. I received my boat on race morning (without a single Hawaii training session) and though set up went well, I was unstable, hot, and lacked surfing rhythm in the warm up. When the gun went off and the field tore across the channel, my race start was truly dreadful. In 2017, I was confident and strong from stroke one, but in 2018 I began to lose ground to Dolan almost immediately. I hemorrhaged time over the first 30 minutes of the race and slowly lost about 90 seconds before the halfway point. I finally did manage to find my rhythm and though I raced and surfed beautifully in the second half (exactly what I was missing on year one), I couldn’t gain back the early ground lost to Dolan. I once again finished a strong second place, but 90 seconds off first. I had respected the distance, but once again failed to fully respect this race.

This year, I am coming at the event with fresh eyes. I am no longer dismissing the event as a minor training race on my calendar. And I am no longer downplaying how truly impressive Dolan is as a waterman and athlete. I am coming into this event full of respect for the race, the conditions and Dolan. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to win and I hope to. But this year, I am focusing on what I can control versus the outcome. I can control my preparation and I can control my effort on race day.

The preparation is all but complete. I have executed numerous paddles of 2.5 hours or longer and I am putting the finishing touches on a quality two-week, Hawaii training camp. I feel dialed in to the waves, the climate and ready for the distance. All that I have left is to show up race morning ready to leave everything on the water. Hopefully 2019 is the year.Thanks for reading and if you want to follow the results, I will have a post out recapping the event on Monday!

Happy paddling!

  • NAC Classic 2019

    Newport Beach, CA
    February 9th, 2019
    Austin's Blog

  • Maui to Molokai

    April 13, 2019  - 26 miles.

  • Molokai Challenge

    May 26, 2019

  • Canadian Downwind Champs

    Squamish, BC, Canada
    July 13, 2019

  • Gorge Downwind Champs

    Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
    July 15-20, 2019

  • Lighthouse To Lighthouse 2019

    Sept. 14 & 15, 2019
    Norwalk, CT

  • Irish Coast Paddling Champs

    Saturday 28, Sept. 2019

With over 250 boats registered for the 2019 Maui 2 Molokai (M2M) and incredible winds predicted for the iconic 42km island crossing, the race is shaping up to be one for the record books. I have raced the M2M twice before, in 2017 and 2018. Both years, I came in feeling cocky and unstoppable and on both occasions I was beat soundly by Pat Dolan (local Hawaiian and big crossing surfski legend). Both years I came in thinking I could win the M2M and both times I made major mistakes that kept me from having the race I wanted. My mistakes boiled down to a lack of respect.

The first year, I failed to respect the distance. This race is 42km and even in incredible winds the winning times tend to be somewhere between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes. In 2017, I was fit, strong and, after a two week training camp on Maui, I was crushing blisteringly fast downwinds leading up to the race. I may have been ready for the speed and intensity, but I was not prepared for the distance. In 2016, all the races on my calendar were around 90 minutes and with a near identical season lined up for 2017, M2M was the one long race of my year. I reasoned that I was strong enough and surfed well enough that I could handle the extra hour of racing with little to no changes in my preparation. I planned to just take plenty of fuel and, if I was well fueled, my fitness would do the rest. It feels stupid looking back at my thought process, but hindsight can only save my future races.

I lined up on race day and the event unfolded just as I anticipated. I was dictating the pace off the start, easily taking and found myself in a comfortable rhythm. I wasn’t pushing my limit (effort-wise) and the race felt comfortably within my control. This lasted for about 90 minutes. That was when Pat Dolan made his move to take the lead. I scrambled and though I countered his move and caught back up to him, the effort felt distinctly different from the first 90 minutes. I could feel my body was not responding the way I wanted. Over the next hour, I slowly lost my fire. I was able to hold it together enough to finish a strong second, only losing about a minute to charging Dolan, but it was a humbling defeat and it was not the finish sprint I had hoped for. In 2017, the M2M taught me my first lesson: in the heat and humidity of Hawaii, you need to be well and truly prepared for a 42 kilometer race or you will be left behind in the latter stages of the event.

Not to be denied, I vowed to return in 2018, ready for the distance. I spent January through April logging plenty of longer paddles and come race day, I was once again feeling confident and cocky. I was all over the distance and as that was my only handicap from the year prior, why didn’t I deserve the gold? And that is what lead to my second mistake.

I became so confident that only a single weakness stood in my way that I turned my attention towards the more prestigious Molokai Challenge in May. I decided to use M2M and my trip to Hawaii to train for the Molokai. My plan was to fly in to Maui right before the race, pick up my boat race morning and start my Hawaii training camp with a win. This time, I failed to respect the challenging conditions of Hawaii.

I have come to appreciate the fact that the water, waves, and climate of Hawaii are not things that feel natural right away. It takes time for me to adjust to a new place. Unfortunately, I used the 2018 M2M to remind myself of this fact. I received my boat on race morning (without a single Hawaii training session) and though set up went well, I was unstable, hot, and lacked surfing rhythm in the warm up. When the gun went off and the field tore across the channel, my race start was truly dreadful. In 2017, I was confident and strong from stroke one, but in 2018 I began to lose ground to Dolan almost immediately. I hemorrhaged time over the first 30 minutes of the race and slowly lost about 90 seconds before the halfway point. I finally did manage to find my rhythm and though I raced and surfed beautifully in the second half (exactly what I was missing on year one), I couldn’t gain back the early ground lost to Dolan. I once again finished a strong second place, but 90 seconds off first. I had respected the distance, but once again failed to fully respect this race.

This year, I am coming at the event with fresh eyes. I am no longer dismissing the event as a minor training race on my calendar. And I am no longer downplaying how truly impressive Dolan is as a waterman and athlete. I am coming into this event full of respect for the race, the conditions and Dolan. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to win and I hope to. But this year, I am focusing on what I can control versus the outcome. I can control my preparation and I can control my effort on race day.

The preparation is all but complete. I have executed numerous paddles of 2.5 hours or longer and I am putting the finishing touches on a quality two-week, Hawaii training camp. I feel dialed in to the waves, the climate and ready for the distance. All that I have left is to show up race morning ready to leave everything on the water. Hopefully 2019 is the year.

Thanks for reading and if you want to follow the results, I will have a post out recapping the event on Monday!

Happy paddling!

  • NAC Classic 2019

    Newport Beach, CA
    February 9th, 2019

  • Maui to Molokai

    April 13, 2019  - 26 miles.

  • Molokai Challenge

    May 26, 2019

  • Canadian Downwind Champs

    Squamish, BC, Canada
    July 13th

  • Gorge Downwind Champs

    Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
    July 15-20, 2019

  • Lighthouse To Lighthouse 2019

    Sept. 14 & 15
    Norwalk, CT

  • Irish Coast Paddling Champs

    TBD Fall 2019