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Mary Graham’s Molokai Journey

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Interview by Sally Mac


In the lead up to the Oahu to Molokai World Championship Board Paddle Race this coming Sunday 27th July 2014, we caught up with first time racer Mary Graham from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Conditions currently look to be favorable with easterly winds and some swell predicted.

The race is a massive physical and mental challenge even for veterans like 3 x winners like Jordie Mercer, so we wanted to hear about the lead up and preparation for Mary in her first “Channel of Bones” crossing.


You have been training for and have just arrived in Hawaii leading up to the Oahu to Molokai World Championship Paddle Race… What inspired you to take this challenge? For me, what I love about Molokai is being out in a massive body of water, so completely out in the wild… I love it. I guess I was very curious about the race. It wasn’t a natural progression for me at all but I think I was so curious and my curiosity wasn’t going away so it was ‘ok, I’m doing it’. My first introduction to the channel was in 2009 and it was an incredible experience. The energy leading up to the race is awesome. Everyone is so excited and pumped! It’s really nice to be amongst a group of like minded people.

Mary Graham Training

Mary is up with the sun training


Have you always loved the ocean? I’ve always been a water baby, it used to drive my mum crazy! I grew up in New Zealand, in the country, and we didn’t get to the beach much at all but when we did once I was in the water I wouldn’t get out. I did swim squad for years but I didn’t really know why because there were no competitions, all we did was train! I learnt to surf fairly late in life at 15 which created an instant attachment to the ocean. I’ve had lots of boards over the years and currently I have a beautiful single fin my partner Tom brought home from California, it’s a 7’6 Anderson.

Are you doing the Molokai because you are a competitive person or it’s a goal you’ve been wanting to work towards? Molokai is both for me, I’m much more competitive now that’s for sure. It’s a race but the first goal is to cross the channel and cross the finish line. That’s the first and foremost goal, any thing after that is a bonus. This year I’m racing with my good friend Heidi Daniels. We were both training to do Molokai solo and then at the start of the year we decided to have some fun and race together as a team. Heidi is awesome, a very solid and down to earth person, and she can paddle!

How do you prepare mentally for such a long haul race in unfamiliar territory? Molokai takes months and months of training and preparation. Training can become such a grind and the thoughts that go through my head on a long paddle are crazy! Tom teaches me daily and inspires me. When it comes to the ocean, focus and self believe and awareness I never argue with what Tom has to say! My trainer, Jason Chapman, has also taught me to really focus physically and push through the tough moments. If my focus goes my core goes too and then I’m all over the place so Jason has taught me how to bring my focus back so my core reactivates. Another amazing mentor is my friend and business coach Emilie Tonkin. She has taught me SO much about life…I am truly grateful to have her guidance and inspiration. As for unfamiliar territory, I’m not afraid of being out in the ocean.

What has your physical training been like in the lead up? What did you start with and how did you build it up? I started training in October and that month was about preparing my body and getting a solid base. I was paddling, sand dune running and doing yoga. Things were stepped up early this year with weights and an awesome paddling programme Nick Carroll put together which was a combination of intervals, sprints and distance. Another great training partner and water baby is Lise Barry. She’s a really lovely person and an animal when it comes to training. She trains to win, but not in an ego way, she trains to push herself. I love that.

Mary Graham


Have you focused on your nutrition? How has it changed and what does it involve? My nutritional has played a huge part with everything aspect of my life this year. I was introduced to an incredible range of products and since then I’ve been able to really step things up. Tom and I are very clean eaters anyway, we avoid sugar and anything processed and buy organic produce only. The products are super clean and high in protein, full of plant enzymes, minerals and nutrients.

How do you stay hydrated and fuelled in the 55km race? This year I’ll be drinking shakes and water, hopefully I’ll be able to eat protein bars too if I don’t get too sea sick.

What do you think will be the most challenging thing about the race and how will you rise above it? Realistically the entire race is going to be 100% challenging. The current is going to be a massive challenge, the physical pain of paddling that far and the crazy thoughts that go along with that…things get weird! Heidi and I will be supporting each other the whole way. We’ve set ourselves a goal and we’re going for it! We trained really hard for this day and we are both feeling confident with where our bodies are at physically.

What time are you aiming for? Heidi and I have a goal or 6 hours or less. So far our training are indicating that we will make that goal. Who knows what the channel will throw at us on the day but we have a goal and we’re going for it.

Are you rewarding yourself with anything after you complete it? Gosh, I don’t know…a sleep in?? A walk on the beach fossicking for sea glass is one of favourite things to do, so relaxing.

After the Molokai what next? Lion Island and then it’ll be time to get ready for Molokai 2015.

What are the specs of your board for the race? I have a JM Paddleboard 15ft unlimited paddle board. This board was shaped by Adrian Birse, I love his shapes and totally trust it. My 15ftr loves the open ocean. The board Heidi and I are paddling for Molokai is a Bark 12ft stock board, again I love Joe Bark’s shapes and think very very highly of his stock boards. They are the fastest stock boards I’ve paddled and really come alive in the water. You can feel every bump and they are very easy to handle.


Filtrate competition


CHECK OUT RECENT STORIES…

> The Mighty Molokai Event Preview

> Loggerheads 2014 Wrap Up and Results by Emma-Jane Eeles

> Dr Kathy Townsend Keeper of the Sea 

> The TOP 3 Tasty Post Surf Teas

> The Pure Strength of Jordie Magic Mercer

> Will Plastic be Our Legacy by Dr. Rachael Marshall

> Katie Williams Runs Fast and Loves her Filtrate Sunnies

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