Lahaina athlete Lara Claydon wins gold medal in Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard World Championships
LAHAINA – In a convergence of the highest of powers, Lahaina girl Lara Claydon shines brightly in the panorama of SUP (stand up paddling) in her upward climb within the long distance competition of the sport. ?
Buoyed by a steadfast Christian faith nurtured by her parents, Jes and Andy Claydon, 16-year-old Lara has charged to the top rungs of stand up paddling competition. Last month, young Claydon teamed up with Kali’a Alexiou to capture the gold medal in the Molokai2Oahu Paddleboard World Championships SUP STK 14-foot Team 2 Female Division with a time of 5:40.30 to finish as the top women’s team entry.
In less than ideal conditions for the 32-mile crossing of the Kaiwi Channel from Molokai to Oahu, including bumpy and inconsistent swells, sweltering heat and a near windless portion of the race, Lara and Kali’a pushed through to finish atop their division to win the coveted world championship on a Starboard ACE 14-foot paddleboard.
In her moment of glory, Claydon does not hesitate to recognize her primary mentor.
“I must remember to trust in God to lead me through the tough times – the losses, the injuries, the personal battles during races – that He has a bigger, better plan for me. God has blessed me and put me in the place I am for a reason. He gave me the gift of SUP and competing, and I am so thankful for that,” she said.
Lara cites her dad as another important influence in her life. Andy is a highly motivated Christian soldier who leads Young Life, an organization that introduces teenagers to Jesus Christ in a setting that allows the members to learn in a fun and comfortable way, as director of the Maui County chapter. He is also a football, wrestling and track and field coach at Lahainaluna High School.
Lara said, “God has truly blessed me with the best Dad ever – he is my biggest influence and my best friend. He pushes me to be my best and to work hard at everything I do.”
Talia Decoite is another important mentor in Lara’s rise to the top in the sport. Decoite is a professional SUP competitor, and in 2012 she was the Molokai2Oahu women’s champion.
“Just this year, Talia became my coach and took me under her wing. She has become a mentor for me and helped me to learn to make training fun. I have learned so much from her and continue to learn more and more. I look up to her,” she said.
Lara also competes for the Lady Luna swimming and water polo teams. She expressed her gratitude to coaches Tom Popdan, Jen Wiseman, Bradley Mason, Chad Ferguson and Scott Fleck, and Trainer Jon Conrad.
Lara also recognized her sponsors, including Honolua Surf Co., Raw Elements Sunscreen, Choice Health Food Bar, Hi-Tech, Starboard, Lahaina Crossfit, Creatures of Leisure, and Maui Jim Sunglasses.
“Thank you to everyone and my amazing family,” she said. “Thank you so much all you guys for all of your support and love. I could not have done it without you guys!”
Lara’s success story is paid forward in her efforts to help Trucker Dukes, a three-year-old Maui boy stricken with cancer. She met the boy and his family at Launiupoko Beach Park recently.
“We decided to raise money for his family through the Young and the Brave Foundation, where 100 percent of the money raised goes to Trucker and his family. We decided to dedicate the race to him,” Lara explained.
“It was truly amazing racing for something other than ourselves – this gave us that opportunity. During the race, it gave me so much more motivation when I thought of Trucker and the battle he is going through. It made me push harder and made me so much more determined.
“Please help Trucker and his family with this hard battle they are going through right now.” Donations may be made through Instagram at SUPGirl99, kalia alexiou, or truker_boy_dukes, or at Facebook Team Trucker-Trucker Dukes Supporter.