They jokingly refer to themselves as the “A-Team”, but the reality of taking on one of sport’s greatest challenges is quickly sinking in for social influencer and former Queenscliff lifesaver Alex Hayes and his ironman best mate Fletcher Davies of Newport, when they left Australian shore earlier this week.
Read about the impressive Australian race highlights here: Top Aussie Athletes Dominate Prestigious Hawaiian Event
The frothing Northern Beaches based pair are currently in Hawaii where, in the early hours of Sunday morning (Australian time) they hope to conquer the Molokai to Oahu World Paddleboard Challenge. It’s an endurance-based event of 54 painful kilometres across the Channel of Bones, a notoriously challenging body of water.
Fletcher Davies is no stranger to the event having completed the course on five previous occasions including three times as a solo competitor.
On his first trip when he was one of the youngest to ever finish the race in a two-person team with Nick Carroll, and in 2019 he will again form part of a duo when he teams up with Alex Hayes on the latter’s first challenge.
So what motivates someone to attempt what many often describe as one of the toughest, most brutal ocean events in the world?
The reasons are as varied as those who sign up to compete, but for this pair it’s about the opportunity to raise awareness about mental health especially to a mass audience.
Following the death of a school friend last year Alex was motivated to step out of his comfort zone and a chance meeting with Fletcher Davies at a Music Festival sparked the dream.
“I remember when I was at school Fletcher who was a couple of years older, did a talk about the Molokai Challenge. I took a lot of inspiration from it. At the time I was heavily involved in surf lifesaving and I thought that’s what I wanted try, but as I drifted away in the last couple of years, it got put on the backburner. Now I have the chance to do it with a friend and to raise awareness about mental health and it’s a fantastic opportunity.”
“Using my influence on social media to spread positive messages is something I really believe in. What I want is for people to understand if they are going through something in their head it’s ok to speak up and no one should have to go through tough times alone.”
Fletcher too believes in both the message and the power of the internet.
“Alex has a million followers on social media, so the chance to send these positive messages to that audience is really cool. I know we sometimes feel that we don’t want to burden others with our problems, but it’s ok to speak out because friends will do anything for their friends,” he said.
The pair have been training hard for several months with early morning gym sessions and marathon paddles becoming their new normal.
“Alex is incredibly fit and has been training hard. He’s definitely ready. What this race is about, is the mental challenge. I believe it’s 70% mental, and while physically demanding it’s the mental side that is really tested,” Davies said.
“We actually did a paddle in Sydney the other day from Potts Point, out the heads and south to Botany Bay and back, so we covered the whole distance. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be but it gives you confidence in your training,” added Hayes.
One man who knows exactly what the pair will be confronting is Nick Carroll, who coached a young Davies as he was coming through the ranks at Newport alongside other rising talents such as Max Brooks.
“The aim is to finish it as quickly as possible. If you’re in that channel for more than six-and-a-half hours it’s a disaster because of the exposure.
“If you’ve been training here (in Australia), you’ve been training in cold conditions and you get to Hawaii and all of a sudden it is peak summer, 30-40 degrees,” said Carroll.
“It’s more than just making the crossing; you’re in touch with so many elements out there. It is 4000ft deep in the middle of the channel and the water colour goes deep purple into the abyss. It’s definitely a full-on race and it’s getting more and more like that every year.
While completing the race as an individual is regarded as the ultimate challenge there is a special kinship that comes from being part of a team to finish.
And for Alex and Fletcher crossing the finish line remains the major goal.
Both men share a love of fitness and a common background in surf lifesaving with the duo crediting the movement in shaping the people they became.
“I don’t know where I would be without it to be honest,” said Davies, “lifesaving has done so much for me and I’ve met so many great people from all over Australia.”
“For me, I still talk to a lot of the people I raced against and grew up with on the beach, it feels like I only saw them yesterday. It promotes a healthy lifestyle, and it’s just a great community to be part of,” said Hayes.
The 2018 Molokai Challenge takes place on Sunday 29 July. Alex Hayes and Fletcher Davies are part of the NSW contingent taking on this remarkable challenge.
Do Something Day which takes place today (July 25) is Australia’s biggest celebration of giving back. The long running initiative is supported by News Local and Your local club, and encourages everyone to be inspired to Do Something by volunteering, making a donation or spreading some kindness. Alex and Fletcher are trying to raise $10,000 for Batyr, a mental health organisation, created and driven by young people for young people. You can donate here.
Wednesday 25 July 2018