Mark Bell finished in first place at the recent Koa Nui Championships held in Hawaii.
Mark Bell finished in first place at the recent Koa Nui Championships held in Hawaii. Shannen McDonald

Outrigger wins championship event in Hawaii

AFTER battling harsh conditions off the islands of Hawaii, outrigger Mark Bell has returned home a victor.

Competing for the first time in Hawaii, Bell finished in first place in the three-stage Koa Nui Championship held earlier this month.

Arriving on the island of Oahu only 36 hours before he was due to begin competing, the Whitsundays local took to a flying start, leading the pack after two of the three stages with a collective time of 3.01 minutes.

Leading into the final stage, a downwind run from Hawaii Kai to Waikiki, Bell said he also knew it was going to be a tough race to win.

"The conditions were suited to the Hawaiians, with waves in excess of three metres and with a wind of 23-28 knots," he said.

"It was always going to be a challenge to come and compete against the Hawaiians especially in those conditions that they are used to competing in and their skill with canoe surfing."

 

Mark Bell competing during the Koa Nui Championship in Hawaii where he placed first.
Mark Bell competing during the Koa Nui Championship in Hawaii where he placed first. Shannen McDonald

Digging deep in the third stage, Bell was able to stay in the race, finishing second by only 52 seconds.

His strong lead from stages one and two and his second-place finish in round three put Bell on top with a winning margin of 2.09 minutes.

While Bell admitted he enjoyed beating other competitors, he said it was the fight against the unpredictable race conditions that posed the real challenge.

"It's the competitive side to the sport that has me hooked but it's not just the competition against other competitors but the challenge you face against with the conditions of the ocean," he said.

"They are always changing, so seeing how you handle the different conditions is a great challenge in this sport that I really enjoy."

Bell didn't stop there, spending the next six weeks competing in Hawaii at a series of events including the OC1 Hawaiian where he finished fourth, and the Hawaiian State Championships, a 29km race from Wiamanalo Bay to Kiamana Beach, which he took third place in.

After first getting into outrigging six years ago, Bell said competing in the six-week string of events in Hawaii was a challenge he had long set his sights on.

"It's one of those things in the sport that I've wanted to tick off. It's a great challenge to set your sights on," he said.

"It's great to have that opportunity to race against people from all over, not just from Australia.

"You have an idea on how you will fair in Australia but heading over and competing in Hawaii, it's a whole new challenge and it's great to see how you fair against people you have never competed against before."

Up next for Bell is something more familiar, with the Airlie Beach Whitsunday Grand Prix Regatta less than two weeks away.