One paddle, two paddle, three paddle, four to take me home...
ALOHA KAKAHIAKA (Good morning)
The alarm summons me awake. It’s o’dark thirty in the morning and the Kona house is slowly waking up. I should be well rested… but I’m not. I am a ball of mixed emotions ranging from nervous to excited to anxious to ecstatic but most of all, I’m giddy. The day has finally arrived. It’s race day!
I had all these ideas and expectations of how this whole adventure would play out and some of them came to fruition, some of them not, but I can’t deny that it was an AMAZING trip overall. In just a few short days, we swam with turtles, night swam with manta rays, paddled 18 miles in the Queen Lilli race, walked in a torch parade where I felt like an Olympic athlete, kicked ass in the 5 mile double hull race landing our crew on the front page of the local newspaper!!! Not done... snorkeled at the City of refuge, hiked into Akaka falls and met and talked story with paddling legends, Uncle Ling and Uncle Kimokeo!
If you had asked me five years ago if I ever saw this in my future I would have said you were crazy even though I first paddled in an outrigger canoe in the summer of 1999. I immediately loved it but life happens, the club that introduced me to the sport disbanded and it just never went anywhere. Fast forward to summer of 2008…it was time to get back in the canoe….which I did…and this time, I became addicted.
I was full-fledged introduced into the sport, the culture and the people. I met new people from other places, other clubs, who came together every weekend in the summer to paddle and compete with their game faces on and then party it up afterwards like we were all old friends. I raced up and down the coast of California for several summers, even trekked out to Las Vegas for sprints but the opportunity to race in Hawaii in Kona for the Queen’s race among some of the best paddlers in the world was an opportunity I did not want to pass up.
THE REAL WORLD KONA
I was a little nervous coming to this race with the club. Yes, I’ve spent a few hundred hours with the women in the canoes, on race days, on social occasions…but we were coming together to live in a house…eat together, sleep together, race together and just be…together…for 8 straight days. Suffice to say all those women in one place could’ve been a recipe for disaster. Happily, it wasn’t that at all. I learned a lot that week and learned to appreciate how each of us were different but how each of us had a common interest and goal. And even though we were each individual people, with different roles in the crew, once we launched our canoe and set our paddles, we were working together as one.
We met crews from Australia, Florida, Great Britain, Tonga, Tahiti…saw familiar faces from other California clubs and of course mingled with Hawaii’s own numerous clubs. Everywhere we went that week of the race, everyone waved, everyone said hello, everyone treated us like rock stars. The Aloha Spirit was in full effect and we were soaking it all up.
THE END IS A NEW BEGINNING
The last evening of our Kona trip we all had dinner together and reflected on our time in Kona. We called it bonding time :-). We each shared something new we had learned about a team mate that we didn’t previously know and what our favorite part of the trip was. What it revealed was that we learned a lot about each other and we did a ton of stuff together and couldn’t have had a better experience!
Paddling is not a sport. It’s a way of life. Only other paddlers know why we spend hours upon hours on the ocean, why we get up and are out on the water before anyone else is even awake. Why we commit ourselves to paddle in the rain, in gusting winds, in the dark, in the cold…day after day, week after week, year after year. Because we’re paddlers.
I read a quote recently that seems fitting when talking to people new to paddling:
" …you don’t have to be better than everybody else. You just have to be better than you ever thought you could be". Nuff Said.