SAN DIEGO, California - As we sit in the heat of downwind season we've decided to compile a list of the top must-do downwinders around the world. We teamed up with the crew at SIC Maui who've built some of the best downwind boards on the market, so they know a thing-or-two about a good downwind run when they see it.
We've received input from 7-time Olukai Champion, Andrea Moller, Tahitian Georges Cronsteadt, Downwind King Jeremy Riggs, Sonni Hoenscheid, and Devin Blish. These aforementioned athletes are some of the best downwind paddling experts in the world, so their opinions of where the best places to do a downwind run come with merit. Here are the top must-do downwinders:
1. Maliko Run, Maui
The Maliko Run tops the list as the top must-do downwind run on your SUP. The Maliko run is located off the north shore of the island of Maui, Hawaii and runs 9.6 miles from the Maliko Gulch and ends at the Kahului Harbor. Maliko is a very consistent run with the peak months being from June - October. The Maliko run is easily accessible and has a shuttle service that will pick you up and take you to Maliko Gulch allowing for multiple runs per day.
Pictured: (left) Andrea Moller on her way to her 7th Olukai victory on the Maliko Run. (right) Devin Blish in the heart of the Maliko Run.
"It's very consistent, the water is always warm, and Maui is a great place to visit with nice accommodations and there are several good restaurants on the island." - Jeremy Riggs
"The Maliko run is safe and easy compared to other runs. Even if you paddle way outside the reef, chances are you will be pushed into shore in case of breaking equipment (instead of offshore to open ocean)." - Andrea Moller
2. Maui to Molokai Run
As one of the longer runs on this list, the Maui to Molokai run is close to 23 miles starting at Flemings Beach on Maui and ending at Kaunakakai Harbor on Molokai. Logistics for this run, such as having a ride back to Maui and costs that are involved, can make doing this run a challenge, however, are all worth it on a good windy day.
"This is definitely one of my favorite runs. On an epic windy day there is surf from the very beginning to the end. The biggest challenge is to cross the Pailolo channel (Maui to Molokai channel), which can get pretty big with side surf, but, that is also a fun surfing challenge. After that it is all straight down wind along the coast of Molokai." - Andrea Moller
"This is probably the best long distance run. The run starts out with quartering winds, that soon turns into big ocean swells in the middle of the channel and the last 10-12 miles is pure downwind bliss. The toughest part of this run is the logistics and cost involved. You want to have an escort boat follow you over for safety. They can also carry extra food and gear and bring you and your board back to Maui." - Jeremy Riggs
"Maui to Molokai can be amazing! On a good day you can pretty much surf the whole way across the channel. The bumps can get pretty big (over head high ocean swell on a super windy day)." - Devin Blish
"This year I would like to try to take part in the Maui to Molokai, I heard from several people that this one is “the best run.'" - Sonni Hoenscheid
3. Columbia Gorge Run, Oregon
The Columbia Gorge run a.k.a "The Gorge" is a beautiful place to visit with an awesome downwind run on offer. The Gorge is located on the border between Oregon and Washington states near Hood River, Oregon and is home to one of the biggest stand up paddling races of the year, the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. The best time of the year for wind is during the summer months.
"The run can be incredible. There is only wind swell so the bumps are pretty easy to read compared to the open ocean runs. There is a current going in the opposite direction of the swells that can make the bumps a little harder to get into at times, but once you are in, you typically get very long rides." - Jeremy Riggs
George Cronsteadt riding bumps at last year's Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.
4. Kihei Run, Maui
The Kihei run is located on the south side of Maui, Hawaii. Although this run is not as consistent as we'd hope it to be, when the wind is right, it's on.
"The Kihei run is much easier to get into glides and to get very long rides compared to Maliko. Easy shuttling available." - Jeremy Riggs
"Our south side run is pretty epic. It's about a 10 mile run from North Kihei to Makena landing. North wind on the north shore is generally a good indication that the south shore is working. It's a super fun run, small bumps, easy to catch and easy to connect (we call it the ego run). The wind over there, however, is a little more fickle, and can shut down mid run or blow super strong off shore (good to have a rudder)." - Devin Blish
Jeremy Riggs feeling the glide on the Kihei run earlier this year in April.
5. Hawaii Kai Run, Oahu
The Hawaii Kai run is a perfect downwinder to get started on and learn the art of riding bumps. The run is 10 miles can take about two and a half hours, pending your ability and skill level.
"The Hawaii Kai Run is on the south side of Oahu. It starts out strong and goes on for about 6- 7 miles. After that you typically have offshore winds if you continue to paddle into Waikiki. A lot of padders will go in around Diamond head to avoid the Waikiki traffic. Shuttling depends on traffic." - Jeremy Riggs
6. Cape Town, South Africa
The Milnerton to Big Bay Downwinder in Cape Town, South Africa is a very popular downwind run among locals and nearby residents. The season for this run is best in the October-February months during South Africa's summer season. During these months the side shore winds tend to howl along the west coast of South Africa, making this a great spot for downwinders. There is even an annual event, the PRIMI Naish Downwind Dash race series, that has been running for over 15 years that lasts 10 weeks and does downwinders from October to December.
7. Tahiti to Moorea Run, Tahiti
The Mahina to Moorea Run in Tahiti starts on Tahiti island in Pape'ete and ends at Vai'are waterfront on the island of Moorea. This just over 13 miles and provides an insanely gorgeous setting.
8. Fortaleza Run, Brazil
The W2 downwind run in Fortaleza, Brazil is a 30km (18 mile) downwind down the beautiful coast. The run typically starts at Mucuripe Beach and ends at Cumbuco Beach. The exotic beaches of Fortaleza makes the scenery from the DW run very interesting.
"One of the best runs I did outside of Hawaii was this downwind race in Fortaleza Brazil. We started at a beach right in the town of Fortaleza and finished on another beach 10 miles down the coast, but the wind kept strong along the coast for miles and miles. It was one of those epic surf from start to finish with approx. 30 knots of wind all the way." - Andrea Moller
9. King of the Cut Run, West Australia
The King of the Cut Run is located in Western Australia along the Peel coast of Mandurah where downwind conditions are optimal due to the consistent sea breeze. The King of the Cut run also doubles as Australia's largest downwind race where athletes from around the globe gather to take part in this annual race. The course is approximately 24km.
10. Molokai To Oahu
The Molokai To Oahu (M2O) run had to make the list of must-do downwinders for the pure fact that the M2O is the run where the best of the best test their true grit. There's also the fact that the M20 downwind run also hosts what is considered the world championships for OC-1 and SUP.
The M2O is a very challenging run that spans 32-miles from Molokai to Oahu through the Kaiwi Channel, a.k.a. the 'Channel of Bones.' This run provides big swells and unpredictable currents making it very dangerous if not properly prepared. The M2O is not for the ill prepared and requires a wide array of knowledge and skill to be completed safely. However, if you are one who has the right skill set for this downwinder, you will agree that it's a must-do for sure.
Andrea Moller (pictured) racing the Molokai to Oahu race.
Downwind paddling is one of the key elements of our sport of stand up paddling and can be done all around the globe wherever there's some wind and water to ride. It helps to have a shuttle, but find a few buddies to go on a few downwinders with and you can create your own shuttle system! With the growth of stand up paddling skyrocketing at every waking moment, there are tons more downwind runs that have yet to be discovered! Until then, check out these 10 listed and you're sure be satisfied!
Did we miss one of your favorite downwind runs? Tell us in the comments below!