Rachel Clarke---Chasing Molokai

2014 Molokai winner Rachel Clarke has set her sights on winning in Hawaii this year and perhaps the next several.  She has set a personal goal to have the most wins of any female in the grueling channel crossing.

If her early season form is any indication, she may be off to a good start towards her goal. She has already taken a World Series win at the Aukland King of the Harbour against the formidable Teneale Hatton and has been putting in the work alongside coach and partner Sam Mayhew in the buildup.  

Rachel and Sam Mayhew

When looking at a list of her palmares, it's hard to doubt that she won't make good on her goal. Rachel has shown a determination throughout her competitive life as well as a wealth of natural physical ability---giving her a one up on her competition and making it clear that when she sets a goal, she is to be taken seriously.

Surf Lifesaving

SN: How did you get your start paddling and more specifically,the surf ski?

RC: I started Surf Life Saving from the age of 5 and really loved being in the water. I also did flatwater sprint kayaking & marathon paddling. I reached represented NZ in Surf Lifesaving at the World Champs and also Kayaking in the Youth Olympics & World Marathon Champs. About 6 years ago I started doing a local weekly race (about 7kms) and absolutely loved it! From then on I began racing in more of the distance ocean paddling races and haven't looked back!

SN: Boat/Paddle/degree offset?

RC:  I paddle the Epic V10L and also have been paddling the V14 a bit lately as well! I paddle with the Bennett, Braca XI, XS min with a 40% pink carbon shaft with a 65 degree offset.

SN:  Surf Lifesaving Club?

RC:  I belong to Mairangi Bay SLSC which is situated on Auckland's North Shore.
I have been in the NZ Police Force for 5 1/2 years! it’s a great career and you can count on every day being different!

SN:  You seem to have taken a special interest in Molokai, and have stated your intention of garnering the most wins of any female (currently standing at 5 by Kelly Fey). What about this race motivates you to take on such an endeavor?

RC:  Yeah I guess in 2014 when I finished Molokai I thought I'd never race it again haha. But had a good think about it and it would be an awesome goal to be the female with the most Molokai wins! What motivates me about Molokai is it’s probably the most prestige surf sky races of all time, it’s not an easy race and it takes guts, determination, and belief to be about to race it. It’s the greatest feeling crossing that finish line and I don’t think any race can beat it.

SN:  How would you describe your first experience at the Molokai crossing?

RC:  My first Molokai crossing I had no idea what I was in for. I had heard a lot about the race and the different conditions it could be. I went into it with no expectations but I'm the type of person who goes out to win not to come 2nd. 2014 was a great crossing, not much wind or swell and very hot!

SN:  Is winning in Hawaii your primary competitive goal for the year or part of a bigger picture?

RC:  This year I would really like to push myself to the limits and see what I can achieve working towards the 2017 World Champs in Hong Kong but to win Molokai is definitely one of goals this year.

SN:  What has your weekly training looked like in preparation?

RC:  My weekly training is a bit all over the show due to full-time shift work. I sit down with my Partner/ Coach Sam Mayhew each week and plan out each day.

SN:  Do you have difficulty finding time to productively train at an elite level and manage a full-time job?

RC:  It’s definitely tough fitting it all in but the bonus with shift work is you can train in the day before a shift and vice versa. If you really want to make it work you will find the time!

SN:  How do you see the current state of women’s surfski racing in international events?  What about in comparison to Molokai?   

RC:  I think there are more and more females getting into the international racing scene and it’s so great to see. it would be so great to see more females at Molokai so we can give the men a run for their money!

SN: Good luck and best wishes down the road!

RC: Thank you!

Excerpt from Rachel's Blog

Maui Jim Molokai World Champs

The Molokai World Champs is a 52km paddle from the island of Molokai across the ‘Channel of Bones’ to the land of Oahu. This channel is known to be one of the World’s most dangerous channels due to its large swells, winds, currents and no land for miles! In 2014 I went into Molokai with no real expectations of how I would perform, it was by far the longest race I would have done and I really had no idea or what to expect. Don’t get me wrong I wanted to win, it’s in my nature and I don’t accept anything less from myself. 2014 Molokai took me 4hrs and 33minutes and I came home with the win (11 minutes ahead of the next female). After the race I thought to myself no way am I ever doing that again… I had blisters on my hands I couldn’t count for and was in a world of pain.

2 years later and I’m back…. about a year ago I thought to myself I want to be the female with the most Molokai win’s… I want to break the Molokai female race record!

Over the past 6 months training has been pretty intense.. Luckly my awesome Partner & Coach Sam Mayhew and I had sat down every week and planned the sessions to work in with my shift work. Long paddles up to 4 1/2 hours, 5KM Time Trials, and intense threshold sessions were among them as well as recovery sessions. After King of The Harbour I knew I was in the right place, I was fit, healthy and just needed to maintain this and increase the distance paddles. Unfortunately a week ago I was hit with some sort of virus/cold.. This is not the optimum preparation I would have wanted but it may not be the worst thing for me having a long taper!

With Molokai approaching fast and race date in just over a week the nerves are starting to kick in! I am not one to really show my nerves and let other people know how nervous I get I just seem to keep it to myself! Nerves are different and handled differently by everyone.. I’ve always been one to get pretty nervous event to the point of when I was younger I used to be sick before racing. Thankfully I’ve learned to control it! I believe some nerves are a good thing.. if you don’t have any then your not in the right frame of mind..

On Tuesday morning Sam and I fly out to Hawaii where we will have a couple of training runs before the race on Sunday just to make sure the ski is set up correctly and to get used to the wind & swells. As well as a couple of recovery days and some light paced sight seeing!

Be sure to check out my Facebook page for updates in Hawaii!

I would like to say a huge thank you to all my sponsors, family & friends for all that you do for me and helping me get here! Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Pita pit NZ, Balance Sports Nutrition SOS Rehydrate, AUT Millennium, Orewa Massage Worx

Happy Paddling!

You can keep up with Rachel here: http://rachelclarke.co.nz/ 



1st – NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour 26km (NZ champs & World Series Race)


1st – NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour 26km (NZ champs & World Series Race)

1st – West Coast Downwinder (World Series Race)

3rd – North American Surf Ski Champs 25km (World Series Race)

3rd – US Surf Ski Champs 23km (World Series Race)

3rd – ICF World Surf Ski Champs – Tahiti

3rd – Perth Doctor (World Series Race)


1st – NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour 26km (NZ champs)

1st – Molokai Surf Ski World Champs 52km

1st – “20 Beaches” – Australian Surf Ski Champs 20km

1st – ‘The Doctor’ Surf Ski 27km (World Series Race)

1st – NZ Kayak Nationals – 5km

1st – NZ Surf Life Saving Nationals – Tube Rescue

3rd – NZ Surf Life Saving Nationals – Single Ski

Surf Life Saving World Champs Squad Member

NZ Police Sports Person of the Year


1st – NZ Surf Ski Queen of the Harbour 26km (NZ champs)

2nd – NZ Surf Life Saving Nationals – Ski Relay

3rd – NZ Surf Life Saving Nationals – Double Ski

2010 Surf Lifesaving World Champs Team

Former NZ Open Ironwomen winner