From the legendary IRONMAN to the fourth largest marathon in the States, Hawaii is widely renowned for hosting some of the fiercest sporting competitions on the globe. For good cause, too: Its rugged coastlines, lush forests, lucid waters, and perfect climate offer athletes ideal but challenging terrains to test their skills—and all of it is set against one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
For the past 22 years, the island of Maui has presented one such race: The epic and esteemed XTERRA World Championship. What began in 1996 as a three-pronged contest with 123 participants has progressed into an international fetish—one with 800 racers representing 46 countries, mobs of onlookers, and coverage in media ranging from Fox Sports to CBS. Frequently deemed the leading off-road triathlon in the world, XTERRA starts with a mile and a half “rough water” swim at D.T. Fleming Beach Park, shifts to a 20-mile mountain bike ride through a former pineapple plantation, past towering oleanders and ironwoods, and up 3,500 feet on the slopes of West Maui Mountains, and culminates in a six-and-a-half mile run across both beach sand and forest trails. And while sports stars such as Lance Armstrong have vied for part of the championship’s $105,000 purse, one of the biggest boons of the championship is that it’s open to amateurs.
The “at-large” pool may be full for October 2018’s race—although sporty hopefuls can register for XTERRA’s waiting list here—but here’s all you need to know about the keenly-anticipated event:
Austria, Australia, Hungary, New Zealand—these are just some of the countries XTERRA racers hail from in the annual (and intrepid) race. Some are Olympic-caliber athletes; others—called “age-groupers” in this context—are green. And yet, they all have one thing in common: To savor Maui’s magic while testing their endurance and strength. “Competitors from all over the world fight for the right to toe the line on Maui,” President of Team Unlimited/XTERRA Janet Clark said. “It’s the Who’s Who of off-road triathlons.”
1.5-mile swim + 20-mile mountain bike ride + 6.5-mile trail run.
The 23rd annual event starts in the waters in front of the uber-posh Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, transitions into Maui Land & Pineapple Company’s private, 22,000-acre estate (complete with hundred-foot drops and stellar views of the outer islands), and ends at the point of entry.
Sunday, October 28, 2018, from 9am to 1pm.
Regarded as the de facto race for off-road triathletes, the XTERRA World Championship is the grand finale in a series of 100 off-road triathlons in 30 countries and 38 states. Pros can compete for part of Maui’s handsome sum, “age-groupers” can earn bragging rights, and all can have the experience of a lifetime.
Happen to be competing? Consider yourself in solid, competent hands: The founder of Maui’s Krank Cycles Aaron “Moose” Reichert brings his vast experience directly to the race—an event he’s been aiding for over ten years by helping tune and dial competitor’s bikes before the big day. His much-loved Maui company—which not only holds the largest fleet of mountain bike rentals on the island but is also frequently voted the Valley Isle’s best full-service bike shop—additionally offers racers the chance to ship their bikes to the event to be built and professionally prepped to pre-ride the course. (Pre-race bike checks are also supplied by Krank Cycles.)
Competing—but don’t want to lug your bike through the airport?
Want to ensure you’re competing at your best? Keep an eye out for the Krank Cycles’ booth on game day; here, you’ll find CO2 cartridges, tires to accommodate Maui’s rapidly-changing conditions, lubes, water bottles—and heaps of encouragement from Krank’s fun, well-informed crew.
Want to take part in the event—but, rather than as an athlete, than as a volunteer? The bigger the XTERRA World Championship grows, the larger its need for volunteers becomes. Shoot your availability for pre-race and race-day activities—and what you’re interested in doing—to [email protected].
If you’d like to compete but haven’t scored a proverbial seat, consider its partner event, the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Runs. Sponsored by the well-known TS Restaurants (Duke’s Beach House, Kimo’s, Leilani’s, and Hula Grill), these more-accessible contests vary between a Keiki K, a 3.3K Sprint & Beach Scramble, a 5K, and a 10K trail run.
If you’re participating as a spectator, the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua is the spot to take in the activities: It serves as the starting point for the swim, the site of both transitions, and the (often heartfelt and emotional) finish line. In addition to Krank Cycles’ booth, you’ll find vendors offering ono food, the XTERRA Gear Shop, and the Kona Brewing Company Liquid Aloha Lounge.
And if you can’t attend this year, mark your calendars: Next year’s event has been called for October 27th. To which we say, a hui hou—and get rolling.