interview with Bobo Gallagher

The Alenuihaha Channel has a foreboding reputation known as some of the most treacherous waters of Hawaii.  Spanning almost 30 miles between the big island and Maui, reaching a maximum depth of 6,810 feet. “Alenuihaha” means “great billows smashing” in the Hawaiian language and is not a body of water to be taken lightly. 

In July of 2020, 11-year-old Bobo Gallagher set out to cross the Alenuihaha Channel via Foil Wing. With the help of his family and a huge community of supporters, many of who are renowned Hawaiian watermen, he successfully became the youngest person to cross the channel by personal watercraft and also the first person to ever do it via Foil Wing. To share the journey of this momentous feat, Bobo and his team will release a movie filmed during the crossing, coming out November 2020 called “A Boy’s Journey; Crossing the Alenuihaha”.  We caught up with Bobo to get his first hand perspective about the endeavor.

Duotone Foil Wing Bobo Gallagher A Boy´s Journey

Hi Bobo!  Congratulations on your incredible achievement!  How does it feel to be the youngest person to cross the Alenuihaha Channel and the only person to cross it on a foil wing?

It feels really good. It’s not the first time I’ve been the youngest to do something similar.  Apart from being the youngest to do it, I was also the first person to do it on the wing & second to do it on the foil. This means that hopefully more people will want to do it as well. Maybe there could even be a wing race across this channel, which would be very cool to see the progressing of the channel in this way.

Duotone Foil Wing Bobo Gallagher A Boy´s Journey

Why the Alenhuihaha Channel (the body of water that flows between the big island of Hawaii and Maui)?

This channel is the best for winging because it is a broad reach, which means that there’s not a lot of pressure on your arms. There is also a lot of wind so you can go really fast, because of so much power in the sail. It would also be a first to cross this channel by wing. 

Why did you choose the wing specifically for this mission?

One of the reasons was because it had never been done before and another reason was that it seemed like the easiest craft to do it on for the first time. Maybe later I’ll do it on a SUP foil or something else.

Why did you chose the Echo + Daytona?

The Daytona is the fastest foil I’ve ever ridden and that paired with my little potato chip cut in half [speaking of his custom Sky Wing board], I can go so fast and get so much air, so I spend the most time riding this setup. The Echo is a great freeride wing and is the most comfortable on my hands so they wouldn’t get as tired. I feel that it’s the best wing for beginners, freeride and going fast so was an easy choice for this crossing.

Was it as difficult as you expected it to be?

I was expecting it to be so difficult that I would barely make it due to the treacherous water. However, because we had so many different people helping me decide which day to do it – when we had the green light, they helped me chose the very best conditions which helped make it more achievable.

How did these mentors help you?

Archie Kalepa helped out a lot with picking the best day and being prepared for the channel (he crossed the channel two weeks prior on a sailing canoe) and he has a view of the channel from his cabin, so he has an intimate knowledge of these waters.

Josh Riccio helped me train a lot doing more than 30 Maliko runs with me, an approx. 10 Mile downwind run, also known as the holy grail of downwind paddling.  It’s really important to have a partner to do those trainings with you, as it isn’t safe to do a Maliko run alone. 

Ken Winner was awesome as well.  He not only trained with me doing Maliko runs and gave me tips about speed, but he introduced me to the Daytona and made sure I had the right wings.

Duotone Foil Wing Bobo Gallagher A Boy´s Journey

Tell us a little bit about your training program? 

I did a lot of Maliko runs (2+ per day) doing 20-30+ miles training sessions.  One day I even did 32 miles. 

I wanted to be able to perform my best when I did go into the channel and I didn’t want to take any chances of feeling underprepared.  So, I had to be prepared for anything; light wind, heavy wind, any of it.  So while I was training, I had that playing in my mind.

 

So when you finally finished the crossing, where you exhausted?

My hands got really sore, but I wasn’t overly tired. Really I just felt so happy that I made it! 

Did you ever think you wouldn’t make it?

No, I focused on a rock ahead of me and stayed confident that I would make it there.

Was it fun?

I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t have fun while you’re crossing a big channel with 1 Mile long waves! It was so fun! I wish I could do it again!

Did anything go wrong? Unexpected?

The wind was actually really light at the end and I could barely stay up on foil.  I was thinking that I might have to get towed by the boat at one moment, but then I was able to chase puffs to get up and going.

Also, the escort boat couldn’t really keep up with me. I probably could have shaved off almost an hour and a half if I didn’t have to keep tacking back to the boat, so it took a while longer than it had to.

What was a highlight of the crossing for you? 

It was really fun the day before going over to see the route from an aerial perspective and also getting to hang out with the film crew on the drive over.

How were your parents involved?

Well, I mean they did all of the organizing! They did everything besides the filming and the actual crossing.  They were with me along the whole project.

Tell us about Charity Water – why did you want to incorporate a charity aspect to your project?

I think one of the reasons why I wanted to, was because you don’t hear about it that much that there are a lot of people who don’t access to clean water.  For us this is such a simple thing – we press a button and it comes spurting out.  So you don’t really think about how many people don’t have that and have to walk miles to get dirty drinking water that is almost like drinking salt water.  I decided to join Charity Water because they help build wells for the people who don’t have the simple necessities like we do. 

What’s next for you? 

Next summer I might try to do the Kauai Channel.  But really I want to work on kiting and windsurfing. I want to get better at big air kiting with my foil, doing backloops and stuff – I’m really loving that right now!  Board offs, etc. it’s so fun!

 

Who’s your favorite pro rider?

Airton! He’s super cool. Jesse Richman as well, I get to hang out with him a little bit.  Kai Lenny. All of the people who are out there doing insane stuff!  It’s cool to see the diversity amongst all of the athletes.

Duotone Foil Wing Bobo Gallagher A Boy´s Journey

We can’t wait to see the movie!  Are you happy with how it turned out?

Definitely!  Deveraux has been working non-stop on it! 

 

What do you hope people get from your movie?

I didn’t really know that I was going to be doing Channel crossings like this from when I started surfing. I just knew that I loved surfing and wanted to keep doing it.  And now I’m doing Channel crossings! You never really know where you’re going to be going. 

 

“You don’t really have to have the background to do what you want to do. You just have to have passion for what you want to do. You just have to keep trying and you can hopefully make your goal!”

Duotone Foil Wing Bobo Gallagher A Boy´s Journey

A Boy´s Jounrey - Crossing the Alenuihaha