Pali Paddle Is The Amazing Race

Evan Valiere

Evan Valiere. Kren Duncan photo

In just a few days, the third annual Na Pali Race will take place along one of the world’s most iconic coastlines. Paddlers will gather at Haena Beach Park on Saturday, July 21, and enter the water for the 17-mile trek along the north and west shores, finishing up at beautiful Polihale Beach.

Kauai pro surfer Evan Valiere is the event’s race director and came up with the idea a few years ago during a typical work day.

“I was teaching stand-up paddle lessons in Hanalei Bay with my business at Hanalei Surf School, and I just had this idea when I was in the water that it would be really fun to have a race down the whole coast,” Valiere says. “From that point on, I just went for it … I went in and started doing all the permits and once I started opening up those cans of worms, it was just endless. But I’m glad I did that because it’s turned into a really legitimate and really good event, and the people who turn up are usually really stoked.”

They’re stoked and they’re skilled, as the top finishers are usually finishing up their workouts in about three hours. Both women’s records are currently held by Kauai wahine, with Kanesa Duncan Seraphin holding the Paddleboard mark (3 hours, 52 seconds) and Mariko Strickland the SUP record (3 hours, 9 minutes, 17 seconds).

Men’s Paddleboard record holder is California’s Hogan Kania (2:55:09), while Maui’s Livio Manelau crushed the course in 2010 with his SUP time of 2:22:30.

At least a couple of those numbers are likely to change once again this year, as is the case in any young event. The tweaks from year to year always mean that organizers are learning how to better operate and make the experience pono.

“The first year was pretty hectic,” Valiere says. “We learned a lot about safety. The second year was really good and we learned a lot about the timing system. This year, we’ve had a substantial interest from sponsors where we now have three surfboards and eight stand-up paddleboards, as well as a prize purse of $15,550 up for grabs. It’s on everybody’s radar at this point.”

Having someone like Valiere as the notable Na Pali rep certainly helps in signing up sponsorships, but not surprisingly, participants aren’t quite as prompt with their signatures.

“It’s already pretty close to the event, but the thing that puts a lot of pressure on me is that nobody wants to sign up until the very last second,” Valiere says. “I think there’s only maybe 12 or 13 people signed up (as of July 10), but what happened last year is about 80 signed up the night before and the day of the race, so I think this year we’ll probably reach between 130 and 150.”

The field consists of mostly Kaua’i people, as well as a large contingent of Maui and Oahu paddlers, along with some from as far away as the Mainland’s eastern seaboard.

In addition to being a fun event that can showcase Kauai’s beauty, the race is also a benefit for the Na Pali Coast Ohana, a “nonprofit foundation dedicated to the preservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Na Pali Coast State Park.”

Their efforts to preserve are qualities that Valiere is hoping participants can support, as well as recognize and apply to other places around the globe.

For additional information and to sign up, visit napalirace.com.

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