• PARKO SET TO PADDLE THE "CHANNEL OF BONES"

Current ASP world number three surfer, Joel Parkinson is preparing to fly to Hawaii to contest the annual Molokai To Oahu Paddleboard World Championships this Sunday, July 29.

With surfing's ASP World Tour in the middle of a scheduled six-week break, Parkinson seized the opportunity to live out a long-held dream and compete in the prestigious race, which sees competitors paddle 32 miles across the "Channel of Bones" between the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Oahu.

"It's just something I've always wanted to do but never had the chance," says Parko. "It's a huge personal challenge, and there's just something really primal about just getting on a board and paddling to an island you can't even see over the horizon. It's strongly linked to traditional Hawaiian culture and means so much to the people who've done it, that I thought I've got to give it a go at least once in my life."

"It's getting close," says Parko from home in Coolangatta. "I don't know if I'm nervous or not, but it's getting very real now a few days out. I'd feel less pressure paddling out for a final in front of 50,000 people I reckon, but it's a great feeling to be doing something completely foreign to me. This really is uncharted water for me."

Parkinson will compete in the two-man stock paddleboard category with iron man, training partner and good mate, Wes Berg. "Wes knows what he's doing, thankfully," laughs Parko. "He's taught me heaps about what I need to do and he just paddles so quickly. He paddles four-minute kilometers, he just flies." When asked what kind of advice Wes has been giving him, Parko replies simply, "Dig in! I think just getting my rhythm and pace down at the start will be the toughest part. I've never competed in an endurance race before and I don't know whether I'll be like the hare and bolt too quickly, too early, but I know if I can get a couple of hours into the race and set a good pace I'm confident I'll have enough in the tank to get to Oahu in good time."

Along with Jackson English, Parkinson will also be raising funds for Surf Aid charity while competing in the race (fundraiseonline.com.au/Parko). He is raising money to help rebuild the school in Masokut, a small village in Indonesia's Mentawai Islands that was wiped out by a tsunami in October 2010.

For more on the race check molokai2oahu.com

Images by: Tom Servais.