Phenom waterman Gallagher, 11, readies for Alenuihaha crossing
Anderson “Bobo” Gallagher is an ambitious young waterman on a mission.
The 11-year-old from Kahana is set to cross the treacherous, 40-plus-mile Alenuihaha Channel by wing foil next month, which would make him the second-ever foil enthusiast to complete the trek and the first by wing foil — professional waterman Kai Lenny made the challenging crossing on a hydrofoil in 2017.
The distance and difficulty do not intimidate Gallagher, who said Thursday night that the plan is to “try and take the best line and get there as fast as I can, and then at the end I can do a bunch of jumps.”
“Riding with Bobo has been all time — his passion and fun energy is inspiring,” Lenny said on Friday afternoon. “He has a natural talent for reading the ocean and is incredibly strong for his size and age. I think if he continues his current path, he can be at the top level in many watersports, if not all of them.”
The Alenuihaha, which connects Maui and Hawaii island, is considered one of the world’s most dangerous channels for its ocean depth, swells and heavy trade winds that funnel between Haleakala and Mauna Kea.
“If you look at this channel and go straight north, you’ll hit Hana, and so folks have tried to cross it to Hana or Kaupo, but not going as far as 43 miles. That’s a long, long way,” said father Andrew Gallagher. “It’s pretty cool, you know, Bobo is a pretty ambitious kid for his age.”
Planning for this crossing started last September when Bobo Gallagher presented the idea to his family. Open call is now right around the corner starting on Aug. 3, with the planned course going from Upolu Point on the Big Island to Maui’s La Perouse Bay, conditions permitting.
An escort boat carrying Bobo’s parents and experienced Capt. Mike Smith will follow for safety. The young wing foiler will also be equipped with an impact vest and flotation device.
“He’s been doing a lot of training over the summer and he’s been able to do some training with some of the best watermen, but sure, as parents we have concerns,” Andrew Gallagher said. “It’s not something that’s brand new to him, he’s done a lot and I know he’s only 11.”
Bobo Gallagher has been channel crossing since the age of 9, when he and a friend competed as a stand-up paddleboard relay team in the 26-mile Maui 2 Molokai race, finishing in under five hours in 2018. He then handled 20-foot waves at Maliko Gulch during the Olukai Hoolaulea Race while being escorted by pro Zane Schweitzer that same year.
As a 10-year-old, Gallagher completed the Maui to Molokai crossing solo on a foil.
Competing in the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships was up next for Gallagher, but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will continue to train for future competitions in foiling, paddling and SUP surfing.
Based on his second-place performance last weekend in the virtual 10-mile Paddle Imua race — where he went from Maliko Gulch to Kahului Harbor in just under 30 minutes — Andrew Gallagher anticipates that his son will complete the Alenuihaha Channel crossing in roughly three hours.
Although the winds can be concerning, they can also play to Bobo Gallagher’s advantage.
“The way he has been training for the channel crossing, I’m confident he will crush it,” Lenny said. “I’m sure it will be more about how fast he can do it rather than just trying to make it to the finish.”
Wing foiling, which consists of managing a detached hand-held kite wing while standing on a hydrofoil mounted to a short SUP board, has only recently grown in popularity.
Gallagher trains around five times a week, but tries to get out into the water as much as possible.
From SUP to shortboard, to kiting to foiling, he said he’ll grab any equipment that is “best for the conditions for that day.”
“I don’t really have a favorite,” said Gallagher, who added that he is asked that a lot. “I pretty much do every sport besides windsurfing, which I’m trying to learn.
Growing up in the epicenter of watersports, Gallagher said he naturally has a passion for improving in every sport and is appreciative for being surrounded by “good mentors” like renowned watermen Lenny, Josh Riccio and Archie Kalepa, who “are big inspirations to me.”
“I feel like it’s more of just living on Maui, I think you’re more drawn to watersports,” he said. “I think that it’s really just the Hawaii lifestyle and just being a waterman to do all of these sports.”
When Gallagher is not in the water, he said he loves to skateboard, and not surprisingly, build surfboards in the backyard.
“I actually have started making surfboards,” he said. “I try to tinker with anything that I can get my hands on around the house — I try to make them good again and I try to make them better.”
Gallagher said his next goal is to cross every major island channel over the course of three days.
Next month’s crossing of the Alenuihaha Channel has also helped Gallagher raise about $4,300 for Charity:Water, a nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing safe drinking water to developing countries.
To donate, visit charitywater.org and search “Bobo’s Crossing” under the “give to a campaign” tab.
“We’re pretty stoked about it, and like I said, he’s been training for it,” Andrew Gallagher said. “I think it’s pretty neat just because of his age and he has a pretty strong drive to do it, it’s pretty amazing as a dad.”
* Dakota Grossman is at firstname.lastname@example.org