Hank McGregor wins world’s toughest surfski race for the third time


South African surfski paddlers dominated the 40th annual Maui Jim Molokai Challenge in Hawaii on Sunday, 29 May 2016, with Jeep Team’s Hank McGregor leading the charge to claim his third Maui Jim title in relentlessly flat and windless ocean conditions.

McGregor finished the 53km surfski ultra marathon in 3h45, with fellow South Africans Sean Rice and Jasper Mocke finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively in 3h47 and 3h48.

The Maui Jim Molokai Challenge is the world’s oldest surfski race, and also one of the longest and toughest marathons, set across the Kaiwi Channel, between the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Oahu. Called the ‘Channel of Bones’ by Hawaiians, the channel is renowned for unpredictable, and often extreme, weather conditions that can change in seconds.

2016 was one of the toughest Maui Jim Molokai Challenges in recent years, with paddlers competing in uncomfortably hot and humid conditions, with no downwind to speak of, which saw the race turn into a strategic test of physical strength and endurance.

A few kilometres into the race, a group of five paddlers surged ahead of the pack. This included the South African trio of McGregor, Rice and Mocke, plus Australia’s defending champion Cory Hill and his compatriot, Clint Robinson.

The race soon turned into an individual battle of endurance with each paddler seeking his own line across the channel that was offering no swell, runs or downwind assistance. In these conditions, McGregor’s experience gave him the edge he needed to find quicker lines and to finish at Maunalua Beach Park a minute and a half clear of second-placed Rice.

Said McGregor, “Last year I came so close to winning, so to come back and win now is awesome, and everything that I had hoped for. It was hot and brutal out there – probably one of the toughest surfski races I’ve ever done, and yet again living up to its name. Congrats to all my fellow countrymen that did so well!”

McGregor first won the race in 2009, followed by a second victory in 2014. In 2015, he led the field until the final two kilometres when Australians Cory Hill and Clint Robinson pipped him to the finish line.


1. Hank McGregor (RSA) 3:45:34

2. Sean Rice (RSA) 3:47:01

3. Jasper Mocké (RSA) 3:48:19

4. Clint Robinson (Aus) 3:49:20

5. Joey Hall (Aus) 4:01:02