Connor Baxter doing what he loves the most. | Photo Via: Karen Baxter
MAUI, Hawaii - The 2016 Olukai Ho’olaule’a Event was not only in the most epic conditions, but it was a great way to dust off last weekends race. I got home on Monday after The Carolina Cup and the wind was cranking and I couldn't have been more stoked. I went for about five runs to make sure the gear and body was in check for one of the most incredible weekends.
The Olukai race is an 8 mile downwind sprint that I have mastered over the years. I love downwinding so much, because you have your own game plan, picking your own line and no drafting. This year’s race had a new start which I really liked. It made it fair and very exciting. We had to be sitting down on our boards on the inside of Maliko bay. This changed my game plan of getting as far out as possible and picking that perfect line. This year I had to have a little more strategy on what line to take. Just straight down or surf out a bit and then surf down with the bumps.
The night before the race I had my special meal and of course started to visualize me “Super Manning” across the finish line! The race started at 12:00 - so I got a nice lazy morning fueling up and getting ready for a crazy day. Going to Maliko the nerves start to kick in and the excitement starts building. Not only being home in Maui and the event, but having the family drop me off and get to see me finish - well, there is no better feeling. Plus, my dad is one of the Safety Boats for the run.
Being interviewed after the race. | Photo Courtesy: Olukai
I got in the water for a quick warm up and then grabbed my spot on the crowded starting line. I lined up in the middle and just was ready to get out of the bay and into the bumps where I could do what I do best, Surf! The yellow flag went up and 1 minute to go and I had my eye on the first Olukai buoy. The horn blew and I quickly popped up and sprinted straight to the buoy. Mo Freitas and I were neck-to-neck to the first buoy and turned it together. Once I got in the bumps I turned on the jets and started connecting bumps and decided to surf out until I got to Mamas Fish House. Once I was far enough out and put in a lot of work to get the best line - I started to play and surf the bumps all the way down to Baby Beach.
The Open division started before the Elite men, so I had to paddle through the crowd which was cool until I got close to the last buoys and I had no idea where the Elite guys were. In the distance there was a guy that looked like Travis and I quickly caught up and realized it wasn't him and had a good feeling I was the first elite paddler coming through the inside. I hit the beach and realized that I had claimed my 5th Consecutive Win at this amazing race!! And of course, I had to end on my Superman Finish.
Superman finish for his 5th straight win. | Photo Via: Karen Baxter
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Dakine, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Futures Fins, Hammer Nutrition, GoPro, Garmin, Waterman’s Sunscreen, OnIt Pro and Hi-Tech Sports. Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. Great Event!! A definite MUST for next year!!!
To see more news from the 2016 Olukai Ho’olaule’a click HERE.