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Saturday, December 8, 2012
Humbling to compete in stand-up paddle and swim

By Alyssa Roenigk

Alyssa will be checking in each day from the 2012 IronMana Bora Bora Liquid Festival. Come back here for updates throughout the week.

The Road to IronMana: Intro | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Let the games rebegin! After a rainy afternoon spent catching up on work, we all gathered back at Marara Beach on the main island to commence the competition.

First up was the second leg of the long-distance stand-up paddle race, which began yesterday afternoon. In both days' heats, competitors paddled about four kilometers from Marara Beach out and around the private island owned by the Sofitel hotel and back again, through rough, choppy waters. And both days, the same man and woman finished ahead of the rest (I hesitate to use the word "won" at the Liquid Festival!): Moehau and Ura Goold, a married couple from Bora Bora. Not only do the Goolds look as if they stepped straight off of a postcard for Tahiti but they are two of the best paddlers in the country. Moehau, 32, told me they've been stand-up paddling for about five or six years and compete as often as they can. His wife, Ura, is 25, "the most beautiful girl in Bora Bora," according to just about everyone here, and couldn't be nicer, or a fiercer competitor. (I know. I swam against her in tonight's shot-down race.)

"She wins every SUP race in Tahiti," Moehau said of his wife. "When people see her, they are surprised to see such a little girl be so powerful and fast. Most woman paddlers are much bigger, with bigger muscles." So why was she smoking everyone? (Yep, I lost to her in the SUP shot-down, too.) "Her technique is perfect," he said. "She has to have good technique to make up for her size."

Moehau said that, on Bora Bora, it's not unusual that Ura participates in SUP. In fact, he said, more women than men stand-up paddle recreationally, but the women are too shy to compete. "But they see Ura racing and winning and they want to be like her," he said. "Especially the young ones. So maybe there will be more women next year."

The men's shot-down race was held in a more traditional manner. The competitor believed to be the strongest paddler competed in the first head-to-head heat and continued competing, without a break, until another paddler took him out of the game. Unfortunately for the other 30 or so competitors, that never happened.

Watching local Bruno Tauhiro paddle was a lot like watching Alex Kostich in yesterday's swim. His technique was flawless, and because these were only 25-meter sprints, technique was everything. His starts were so powerful that he had most of the guys beaten by the halfway mark. After every few races, someone would toss Bruno a Powerade, he would gulp down a few swigs and then jump back on the board for his next race. All in all, he raced about 30 men from all around Tahiti and the U.S., including Moehau Goold.

But if he really wants to be considered the best paddler in Tahiti, I think he needs to race Ura.

Tomorrow is the final day of the Bora Bora Liquid Festival and the grand finale event: the Iron Mana. Many of the competitors arrived tonight just to compete in this event, which we kicked off with a carb-loading pasta dinner. I'm going to take part in the race, but on a relay with two other paddlers.