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Jenny and Morgan’s excellent adventure

(Photo courtesy of Destination 3 Degrees)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

If you’ve completed a Molokai-to-Oahu channel crossing on a standup paddleboard, what’s the next challenge?

For Hawaii standup standouts Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoesterey, it was obvious.

You travel the length of the Hawaiian Islands on your paddleboard (about 208 nautical miles), explore the nooks and crannies on each island and raise awareness about the impacts of plastic contamination in our oceans and on marine life and the human food chain.

So, Hoesterey, of Honolulu, and Kalmbach, of Kailua-Kona, launched Destination 3 Degrees, which reflects the three degrees of latitude and nine open-ocean channels that separate the Hawaiian Islands.

Their month-long adventure is chronicled in the documentary “Destination 3 Degrees,” which has its Big Island premiere Saturday, Dec. 4 at the 7th annual Kona Surf Film Festival at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows.

“The original idea was ‘OK, we’re going to paddle all the channels,'” Kalmbach said. “We were like little kids, so excited about it, but we quickly found it was going to be harder than we thought. We thought we’d never be able to pull it off logistically.”

Kalmbach, an ocean recreation specialist, and Hoesterey, a photographer who also works for Wet Feet, needed sponsors and figured documenting the journey would be a good selling point.

Hoesterey recruited her friend Chris Aguilar, founder of Soul Surf Media Productions, to film and photograph the trip.

With Aguilar onboard, the women still spent eight months planning and plotting before they set off April 7 from the Big Island’s north shore.

One captain pulled out at the last minute, not wanting to be responsible for the duo’s safety. Kalmbach fought off a sore throat and nausea. Hoesterey hit a mental block early on, but powered through.

“It was all crazy, but if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been such an adventure,” said Kalmbach, Battle of the Paddle champion in 2008 and one of Standup Paddle Magazine’s top woman boarders in 2009.

At one point off Molokai, several false killer whales joined the journey. Kalmbach said she looked down and realized they were as long as her 17-foot board.

“That was a little scary at first, but really cool. They hung out for awhile,” she said. “They don’t look like whales; they look like sharks. But Morgan was smiling, so I figured it was OK. I probably would have had a different reaction if they were sharks.”

Looking back, Kalmbach said the 82 miles between Oahu and Kauai were the most daunting. Taking advantage of favorable weather conditions meant they paddled all through the night.

“I kept thinking it can’t get any darker,” Kalmbach said. “What helped me was knowing the sun would come back up. It was 11 hours in total darkness.”

Hoesterey urged Kalmbach to lie down in her board and check out the sky.

“So I lay on the board, staring straight up. All those stars, it was amazing,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m just laying here in the middle of the ocean … This is crazy.'”

Eventually, they glimpsed the red buoy that signaled they were close to the harbor entrance on Kauai.

“Neither of us is very emotional, but that’s when we began to tear up,” she said. “It was very emotional to realize we’d made it. We were bawling, but really proud. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. That’s when it hit us – we just paddled the entire way.”

Kalmbach said she was craving chicken soup, but the best thing on offer were Jolly Rancher candies.

“I don’t usually like them, but right then, they were really good,” Kalmbach said. “When I stepped on the dock and closed my eyes, it literally felt like someone was pushing me from side to side. I had total sea-legs.”

Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoesterey paddled more than 200 miles across Hawaii's open-ocean channels. (Photo courtesy of Destination 3 Degrees)

The Message

Although the adventure is complete, Kalmbach said the mission has just begun.

“At the time, I thought it was cool to do and I can appreciate we created this opportunity to raise awareness and help find solutions,” she said.

“It really hit home when I saw Shipwreck Beach on Lanai. All you can see is junk; absolutely everywhere you look is trash. Plastic bags, bottles, bottle caps, rope, fishing gear…” Kalmbach said. “As I looked around, I realized how big an issue this really is.”

Kalmbach said that pollution is not just bad for the environment and is now entering the food chain as fish are ingesting bits of plastic, which end up on dinner plates.

“It’s becoming more than unsightly. It’s starting to affect what we eat,” she said. “We have to ask at what point do we all decide that it’s not worth using plastic? When you get sick off eating fish that ate plastic?”

Kalmbach said she hopes to inspire people to make little changes in their daily habits and think about how much plastic they can live without. And she also hopes to inspire people to create their own adventures.

Kalmbach said she sees parallels between her sport and the health of our oceans.

“Standup paddling really gets people connected to the ocean environment. It’ll be a long battle, but you can make a little difference every day,” she said. “You just can’t give up. The biggest thing is we have to stop our use of one-time plastic.”

The 3 Degrees journey also has a personal message.

“Dream big, just dream big. If you believe in something, it’s up to you to go do it, whether it’s a great adventure or cleaning up the ocean,” she said. “One person can make a difference.”

(Map courtesy of Destination 3 Degrees)

The Channels

* Alenuihaha Channel: “Of very large, trough-like waves” (Hawaii-Maui) – 40 miles

“It’s one of the most dangerous crossings,” Kalmbach said. “You have these massive mountains that funnel the winds straight through. That was probably the hardest channel just from the mental side of it. Definitely a learning trip.”

* Alalakeiki Channel: “Screaming or crying child” (Maui-Kahoolawe) – 6 miles

* Auau Channel: “To take a bath” (Maui-Lanai) – 14 miles

* Pailolo Channel: “To urge or rouse expertise and skill” (Maui-Molokai) – 26 miles

“This was when we ran into difficult conditions, with the wind coming in and storms coming,” Kalmbach said. “You really, really have to trust your captain and your crew.”

* Kaiwi Channel: “The bones” or “Long surf line” (Molokai-Oahu) – 32 miles

* Kaieiewaho Channel: “The ie ie vine” (Oahu-Kauai) – 82 miles

“That was one of the ones we were thinking about the whole time,” Kalmbach said. “Morgan and I both really stubborn, so it would have taken a lot for us to give up. The swells in that channel were the biggest we saw.”

* Kaulakahi Channel: “The red place” (Kauai-Niihau) – 17 miles

“We didn’t have permission to land on Niihau, but we got close enough for Morgan to dive down and touch the bottom,” Kalmbach said.

Kona Surf Film Festival

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and the movies begin after sunset.

Two other films are featured Saturday evening:

* Idiosyncrasies: Presents an exploration of some truly unique minds, revealing what’s behind the impact of some of surfing’s most influential underground individuals. Through their art and music, surf craft and lifestyle choices. Starring Richard Kenvin; Andrew Kidman; Lance Ebert; Christian Beamish; Tom, Leeann, Frank and Pat Curren; and Bill and Josh Mulcoy.

* Dark Fall: A representation of New Jersey surfers: the lives they lead, the friendships that are made and the brotherhood that bonds surfers to this coastline. Alex DePhillipo’s award-winning documentary follows a year in the life of New Jersey’s best surfers as they tackle some of the best surf right in their own backyard and travel to remote locations across the globe.

The Kona Surf Film Festival benefits the Surfrider Foundation Big Island Hawaii Chapter – Kona Kai Ea.

— Find out more:
Destination 3 Degrees:
Soul Surf Media Productions:
Kona Surf Film Festival:
Algalita Marine Research Foundation:

Jenny Kalmbach (Photo courtesy of Destination 3 Degrees)

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