Amputee & Paraplegic on Molokai Cross



HONOLULU, Hawaii – California's Jeff Denholm and Hawaii's Mark Matheson fell victim to two very different, life-changing accidents back in the '90s. Denholm lost an arm aboard a fishing vessel off the coast of Alaska, and Matheson fell four stories off the balcony of a hotel on Kauai and crushed his back, becoming paralyzed from the chest down. On Sunday, July 25, both will take on one of the most infamous ocean channels - the Ka'iwi, or Molokai Channel - to show that extreme adversity can be overcome to enjoy a fulfilled and athletic life. They will race in the 32-mile Molokai-2-Oahu World Championship of Paddleboarding in the same division and age category.

Denholm, 43, who is a surf ambassador for Patagonia, entered and completed his first Molokai-2-Oahu in 2009. It was an unbelievable feat, given that he paddled the last 17 miles essentially with one arm after the glue that attached his prosthetic failed. His mission, as he puts it, is "less about me and winning and more about inspiring those who need it most, simply by not giving up." He crossed 32 miles after eight hours of paddling on the channel last year, but his inspirational efforts traveled across oceans and around the world.

"The end of the race was just overwhelming," said Jeff. "I was brought to tears, partly because of fatigue but just completely humbled to be not necessarily standing shoulder to shoulder with my idols but at least on the same playing field." Jeff completed the course in 8:9:46.

"I have an immense amount of respect for any race of the Molokai's distance," says Denholm, a surfer, skier, mountain biker and paddleboarder. "Anything can happen. The weather and sea conditions are always up in the air and play a huge factor. However for me the biggest 'x' factor is my paddling device. I glue it to what is left of my arm and both the glue and device have proven to fail over long course races. If it stays on I am confident in my physical ability and feel that I can perform quite well. If it fails it will be all about survival at that point. With this said I have a better device and improved adhesive this year so my hopes are high." Jeff knows all about survival on the Molokai Channel. "I learned a lot about myself in those painful miles," he said after reaching the finish line last year.

For Matheson, 49, this will be his first Molokai Channel crossing and he's doing it to raise funds for the organizations that helped get him back on the water: Easter Seals Hawaii and AccesSurf Hawaii. "Since I don't have the use of my core (abdominal) and leg muscles, one of the challenges I have is keeping my legs on the board and from tipping over," says Matheson. "Special upper body strengthening exercises, paddling technique and adaptive devices on my board have helped.  The other challenge is getting my equipment and myself in and out of the water.  

"My training buddies Mike Cote and friends in Wailupe have helped along with specially designed wheelchairs and beach mats. For race day, I have the support of my family and friends, paddle buddies, folks at Easter Seals Hawaii and AccesSurf Hawaii, my film crew from Freedom Riders who have been documenting my incredible journey, as well as a wonderful celebration dinner planned for my team courtesy of Roy Yamaguchi and his restaurant!"
Donations can be made to Easter Seals Hawaii and AccesSurf Hawaii.

The 14th annual Molokai-2-Oahu World Paddleboard Championship takes place on Sunday, July 25. The race starts around 7am at Kaluakoi, Molokai, with the first finishers expected around midday. Denholm is hoping to break the 7-hour mark this year, which would bring him in at around 2pm. Matheson will also be working towards an early afternoon finish.

Last modified onMonday, 01 November 2010 18:28

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