We are all so proud of F-One Team Rider Josh Riccio for his amazing result at the Molokai to Oahu SUP race, arguably the most prestigious race or the year. Josh won the title in the 14′ class, with something like 45mn ahead of the second, and 8th overall, surrounded by a sea of unlimited boards. I caught up with Josh a few days after his win and asked him a few questions about the race. It really is a good read, and it shows how competitive the field of top SUP racers have become.
Thanks! It is pretty hard at the moment to describe how stoked I am to win the 14′ stock class, it definitely was my biggest personal goal going into the year! But yeah I would be glad to answer these questions and relive last Sunday…
My strategy for this years M2O race was to really focus on reading and using the bumps as efficiently as possible meaning, I would press when the opportunity to connect several bumps presented itself but always paddle efficiently especially in between the big glides because it is a long race and the conditions were expected to be pretty bad at the end of the course, due to an unfavorable tide. I always try to use other paddlers around me to gauge how my line and performance is comparing to others, so I kept my sights on Travis Grant and Connor Baxter as long as I could to check and see if their strategies and lines differ from mine and if so how is that decision paying off for them. I always try to have a few race strategies and backup plans if things are not going the right way, and this is when a good escort boat captain can really come into play. The day before the race the Captain and I go over a whole list of different scenarios that we might find ourselves in during the race.
The conditions this year were the fastest I’ve ever seen in my 4 years of racing the M2O, but china wall and the headwind at the end were also the most challenging I have ever seen in my 4 years as well. The tradewinds had been blowing strong for several days leading up to race and were already blowing consistently around 20mph by the 8am start. The wind gradually increased throughout the race creating some insane conditions. I crossed the 16 mile mark at 2 hours 3 minutes so at that time my pace was putting me on the finish line well ahead of the stock sup course record set by Kai Lenny, but as expected my average pace started to drop around mile 26 due to a strong tidal current running against us, the gradient of a strong current running against a strong trade wind made the backwash and surges off china walls really challenging, even though I managed to stay on my feet through the whole leg around China Wall it was so hard to get the board gliding on any bumps against that current. I usually like the rough water on china walls but on Sunday I was really looking forward to pulling into Maunaloa Bay (Hawaii kai) and finishing the last 1.5 mile upwind stretch. Even though I caught and connected waves on almost every little part of the reef on the way into the finish line, the head wind almost beat me in the last 1.5 miles and I ended up off the board about 6 times in that last 1.5 mile stretch, but I managed to just outpower that head wind long enough to finish at 4:36:45.
Yeah I got my first 14’x23.5″ Downwind board from F-One in May, even though I’ve gotten some great results on that board with a 7th overall at Olukai, 1st place stock class at Paddle Imua, and 2nd place stock class Maui 2 Molokai, I was feeling a few things I wanted to modify for Molokai 2 Oahu. The first downwind board wasn’t bad but with Molokai 2 Oahu being my biggest goal for the year I asked the crew at F-One if it would be possible to make a second 14’x23.5″ Downwind board for me in time for M2O. Seemingly without delay F-One took my thoughts and feedback from the first 14′ downwinder and crafted a second generation 14’x23.5″ downwind board. I actually got the board just 5 days before the race so I got to use it for one 10mile Maliko run and one 13mile Kamalo run (section of the Maui 2 Molokai ) it immediately felt great under my feet, the new board was faster in the flats, lower in volume, less weight, and maneuvered better in the bumps. I brought both boards with me for Molokai 2 Oahu just in case I needed a backup but after the Kamalo run I was extremely confident that the newer downwind board was the one! Considering the results I have had on the first 14’x23.5″ I was confident in both boards abilities. In my opinion, equipment is a huge factor in our sport especially right now because you have so many different companies producing so many different designs, it requires the serious brands and serious athletes to keep up with the pace of progress when it comes to board design. I have been training more this year than in the past but I definitely have to give the guys at F-One a lot of credit for designing and building some incredible race boards for me, I’m amazed at how good the boards are performing especially with this being our first year (F-One and I) working together. As a full time sup athlete passionately pursuing my goals to compete against the worlds best paddlers at the worlds most competitive Sup events, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have good boards under my feet.
Yeah, M2O was not only my biggest goal for 2017 but also the longest and most physically demanding race on my 2017 schedule. I started training in the end of January to figure out where my cardio base was, from there I began with weekly interval training. January and February this year on Maui were terrible months for downwinding, so it forced me to do nothing but flatwater interval training and surfing until March. We just didn’t seem to have any tradewinds over 10mph until March so even though I have done around 50 Maliko runs or 500 miles in preparation for M2O this year I wish I could have done more downwinding. I had a 5 week trip that started late March for the Santa Cruz Paddlefest, until late April after the Carolina Cup so when I got back to Maui, it was basically May and the tradewinds were blowing. I averaged 3-5 maliko runs a week pretty much every week since May. I really wanted to put myself through as many miles and different conditions as possible to increase my understanding of my environment and skills as a downwinder. I really think the mileage helped me improve my mental ability to read the bumps and make the best decisions with my energy. I was a surfer before paddling took over my life so I always tend to relate things back to surfing and to me downwinding is just like surfing in the sense that it requires skills beyond physical strength and conditioning which are important and necessary but just like John John Florence needs to surf to get better, a downwinder needs to ride more bumps to get better. and to me there is no substitution for downwinders like there isn’t one for surfers, which is great thing because I’m really fortunate to call Maui home since 2010, so I’m lucky to have some of the world’s best downwind runs an hour away from my bed.
Aloha, Josh Riccio