HAWAII BOUND: Mooloolaba Masters team are heading to Molokai for the world championships.
HAWAII BOUND: Mooloolaba Masters team are heading to Molokai for the world championships. Patrick Woods

Part-time paddlers ready to embarass on world’s best

THE scariest thought for a professional crew competing in this weekend's Molokai Hoe outrigger canoe race does not come from the 61km voyage across Hawaii's Ka'iwi Channel.

It comes from the prospect of bunch of grey-haired Mooloolaba part-timers easing past them and powering seemingly tirelessly toward the finish line.

The legendary Mooloolaba Outrigger Club has been damaging egos at the world's most gruelling outrigger race for 21 years, dominating the masters and over-50 classes and setting world records.

But it is in the open category the crew inflicts the deepest psychological wounds, passing professional paddlers half their ages and finishing in the top 20 of the 100-plus field.

After coming 11th two years ago and 16th last year, crew member and coach Rob Grabbe believes his team is ready for its most age-defying feat yet.

"We know we can finish in the top ten and that basically scares a lot of people because they want to know how a bunch of 50-year-olds is finishing ahead of them," he said. First conducted in 1952, the Molokai Hoe has become the most prestigious paddling competition on the globe and is the unofficial world championship of outrigger canoe racing. The course requires teams of six to paddle about 61km from the island of Molokai to Oahu, taking more than five hours in unpredictable conditions.

Grabbe's rationale for the strength of his crew, which consists of everything from cabinetmakers and couriers to retirees and life guards, is a mix of experience and traits celebrated in Australia's sense of identity.

"It's a testament to the hard-headedness of the Aussie mentality," he said.

"We're not professionals, we all either work full-time or are retired but these guys train seven times a week.

"The top five or seven crews are Tahitians and they are full-time professionals, training six hours a day and running up mountains on their days off.

The tougher the conditions get the more enjoyable it is for the nine-man crew, which consists of Grabbe, Mark Forbes, Mike Mils-Thom, Danny Sheard, Guy Wilding, Trevor Wendt, Warren Cuffe, Rob Gowland and Rob Dorrough.



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