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Panama Paddle Athletes in Championship. Two of Panama’s skilled stand-up paddleboarders (SUP’s), Chris Huerbsch and Cristy Kelso, are racing for the 2nd consecutive year in the 20th version of the Molokai 2 Oahu World Paddleboard Championship in Hawaii, which takes place on Sunday, July 31st.
On that date, the world’s best paddleboarders will converge on the island of Molokai to compete in a one-day, 32-mile endurance and skill race over open ocean from Molokai Island to Oahu Island through the Ka’iwi channel, also known as the ‘’Channel of the Bones’’.
This channel has the reputation of being one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. It is 2,300 feet deep, has unpredictable swells and strong crossing currents and winds. Only a handful of athletes, approximately 180 paddlers, have qualified to take part in the race.
“The Molokai2Oahu is the Iron Man of stand-up paddle,” said Huerbsch, who will be racing with Kelso this year as a two-man coed relay team on a SUP Race 14’ board. They are sponsored this year by Movistar.
Kelso and Huerbsch have been paddling for 16 years. They have won many gold medals in Panama’s Ocean to Ocean Cayuco Race. They also have experience in Outrigger Canoeing.
They are not only paddle athletes, but they are probably the only two people in the country that live solely off of the sport. Huerbsch is the owner and craftsman behind Cayuco Culture, building the most beautiful, detailed and high-performance cayucos and paddles for the cayuco industry. He is also the president of the Club de Remos de Balboa “CREBA” which organizes the famous cayuco races through the Panama Canal.
Kelso is the co-owner of AWA Paddling and Functional Training Gym, located in the heart of Panama City (San Francisco), offering a unique, calorie burner and an innovative concept of training for high-performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. She is also considered the pioneer and promoter of the SUP Race in Panama. Moreover, Huerbsch and Kelso, together with the Feliu brothers, were the first group to organize multi paddlesport races in the country.
Huerbsch and Kelso are passionate about the paddling world, and it has become part of who they are and what they do. “It is a privilege and blessing not only to paddle, but to also make a living from it and be able to share the stoke with others” Kelso commented.
Stand Up Paddling is a versatile sport that attracts beginners as well as professional athletes. It has various sub-divisions such as: SUP Race, SUP Surf, SUP Fitness, SUP Yoga/Pilates, SUP Fishing, SUP Touring, SUP All-Around and SUP Inflatables.
Paddleboarding can be practiced anywhere there is a body of water, from a big swimming pool, to rivers, to lakes, to open oceans. All ages are able to join the sport, from kids to older adults.
It is the fastest growing water sport in the world, and has now become a very popular water sport in Panama, according to Kelso.
“We are very excited and looking forward to race once again in the world-renowned M2O. Each year the weather conditions are somewhat unpredictable, and the skill level of paddlers keeps getting stronger,” says Huerbsch.
Kelso also added that there are two other paddlers from Panama participating in the race; Ricardo “Ricky” Chiari and Jolianne Marxen. They, too, are a two-man coed relay team.