Molokai Pioneer Still ‘Goes For It’
Wednesday - April 30, 2008
We often refer to groundbreakers as pioneers - innovators who were willing to take risks. Dean Hayward is considered by many to be such a man, although he playfully labels himself something entirely different.
“I was one of three guys stupid enough to go for it,” he laughs as he recalls the 1977 Molokai Challenge. “Dale Adams was the first to do a solo crossing the year before that and then we followed it up with the first race.”
Hayward and Adams, a long-time Kailua physician, were joined by international surfski champion Jorgen Hansen in the Molokai to Oahu surfski race. Seas were in the 8- to 10-foot range, perfect conditions for the former marathon runner.
“There were lots of good waves but unfortunately Dale dropped out with an injury,” says Hayward. “I was in a 16-foot rudderless kayak and I ran away from Jorgen. He was more of a sprinter, and in the end I kind of dusted him, but it was no big feat.”
Hayward’s winning time was 6 hours and 45 minutes, nearly an hour faster than Adams’ 7 hour, 30 minute effort the year before.
“The only person waiting for me at the finish line was my wife - very few people even knew we were racing,” chuckles Hayward, a former teacher at Kamehameha Schools. “The following day in the newspaper, I remember seeing a 2-inch column on the event. It was no big deal.”
But it was. The following year, Kalai Handley of Kailua won the race. Since then, no other Hawaii competitor has won the event. Today, the Molokai Challenge is considered the world championships of long-distance open ocean surfski racing.
“I enjoyed competing in those events back then, but that’s behind me now,” he says. “That is suffering - through the years you start to realize those grueling races make you suffer. When you’re younger you forget the pain. I’m not smarter - just older.”
But at 70 years young Hayward is far from calling it a career. Earlier this month in the Kanaka Ikaika State championships, Hayward finished second in the “kupuna 60 and over” division and 12th overall.
“A lot of it is technique, experience and knowledge of how to read the ocean,” he explains humbly. “You put me out there on a flat day and those kids are out of sight. But when the fan is blowing (strong winds) I can still compete.”
Hayward doesn’t feel he is an inspiration to others - just proof that people can “go for it no matter what your age.”
“One part of me is happy that some people look at me that way and at the same time it’s like a back-handed compliment,” he says. “Why not go for it at 70!”
Hayward still trains several days a week and has been a vegetarian for 30 years. He admits luck and genes go a long way, but he says taking care of his body is “just the natural thing to do if you want to have a quality long life.”
“The adrenaline certainly does-n’t flow like it used to at the starting line, but it’s still fun dusting the young pups,” he laughs. “I’m not done yet.”
They say 70 is the new 50 - that’s not surprising for this ageless pioneer.
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