Paddling in Paradise

The outrigger canoe race season is in full fling.

This weekend the Hanalei Canoe Club (HCC) participated in our second regatta of the season. Like the first, it was held in our beautfiul Hanalei Bay. It’s a great day out for the entire family, with kids’ races all morning, and adults’ all afternoon.

Setup on race days starts at 7am. I try to get there early to enjoy the tranquility and grab a few morning photos before the hoards arrive.

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We gather at the Hanalei Pavilion beach park, and both park and beach are quickly buried under tents and bodies.

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Our clubhouse is located on the edge of Hanalei River, close to the river mouth at the east end of the Bay, so it’s easy to paddle our canoes from the club to the Pavilion early in the morning, where the kids enjoy helping to haul them out onto the beach.

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At the beginning of each regatta the Hanalei Canoe Club tradition is to form a circle around our canoes for an opening blessing, and usually the club song, Queen’s Jubilee. However, Devin our master ukulele player and honorary ‘musical director’ was MIA this weekend, so no song. It’s not easy to remember the Hawaiian lyrics, so I found a recording (there are plenty of them!) on YouTube to help me get it into my head for future events.

As a Brit, I was interested to learn the story behind the song, which was written by Queen Lili’uokalani after traveling to London as a young princess with a large Hawaiian contingent to attend Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

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All the club members help at various stages, in various roles during the day. Everyone brings food to share; paddlers are a hungry crowd, and the food table quickly looks as if it’s been attacked by a flock of vultures, so we try to stagger the ‘unveiling’ of dishes to make them last a little longer.

At every regatta, and other events too, we sell club merchandise to visitors and club members, which helps raise much needed funds for the club. It takes a large number of helpers to set up and unpack, to man the tables all day, and then to pack up at the end of the event.

We carry a vast array of logo clothing: teeshirts and tanks (cotton, capilene, mesh), sweatshirts, hoodies, caps/visors/beanies, shorts, swimwear separates – in many colors and in all sizes from 6 months to XXXL. So if anyone out there fancies some Hanalei Canoe Club clothing from the Garden Island, let me know! 🙂

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Each club also provides one or two members to work in the official race tent, recording results and timings. I’ve done a stint in the tent at both regattas so far, and it’s interesting to learn how it all comes together.

Besides the official tent, we have our own club Mission Control, where the teams for each race are selected and race results monitored. This week, our extraordinary coach Lilinoe was ‘on duty’ as usual, from first thing in the morning, with baby Kaleb beside her, despite them both having experienced a C-section delivery 12 days previously. That’s Lilinoe below, busy at work in the yellow/green sarong, and Kaleb’s hidden in the buggy. She even showed up at the club with Kaleb when he was just four days old. She’s one tough cookie!

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However, some folks work a tad harder than others! 😀

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We were blessed, again, with gorgeous weather and ocean conditions; yet another glorious day of paddling and camaraderie in the Bay.

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This year the Hawaiian Island Canoe Racing Association (HICRA) State Races will be held in Hanalei Bay on August 3rd. It will be an especially fun occasion for us all at HCC, as the State Races are only held here on our home turf in our home surf once every six years. The event is held on O’ahu every other year, and on a neighbor island other years.

Outrigger Canoeing: A rookie wrinkly’s perspective

Having had a charity tennis tournament rained out this afternoon, I’m back home and watching the rain continue to dump on us, so it seems apt to talk about a water sport instead.

Back in October a friend invited me to try outrigger canoeing. If you’ve been to Hawai’i, or seen the closing credits for Hawaii Five-0, you’ll know the kind of canoe I mean … this kind:

Many years ago, I rowed in eights and fours in England (on the River Thames), even once taking part in the Head of the River race (which looked a little like this recent example); latterly, I’ve been more into enjoying ‘easy’ kayaking with Steve (we brought a couple of ocean kayaks with us to the island), so I was keen to give the traditional Hawaiian outriggers a go.

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HCC: River access is behind the building – turn right to head up river, or left to head out into Hanalei Bay

Luckily, I joined Hanalei Canoe Club (HCC) during the off-season, so I had a few months of recreational-level paddling with a small (i.e. ‘quality not quantity’) group who regularly go out on Monday and Friday mornings.

Since the paddling stroke is very different from rowing, this gave me a chance to learn the ropes and start to ‘educate’ the required muscles before the serious training began, which it did in February.

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Training sessions are now Monday and Wednesday evenings, and also Saturday mornings if there isn’t a race. As the season goes on, there will be a race or regatta on most Saturdays.

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Hanalei River passes through the Hanalei Wildlife Refuge and taro fields.

During winter months, we train up and down Hanalei River, but when the ocean calms down in the summer we’ll get out into Hanalei Bay.

We paddle in most weather conditions, wet or dry, so training is rarely canceled (unlike tennis)! It’s harder work on windy days and when the river is flowing fast, but on a good day (and there are plenty of those), the views are spectacular. Either way, it’s exhilarating and a great work-out. It’s also a very sociable activity, and it beats going to a gym.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my new sport, not just for the activity itself, but also for the friends I’ve made, and for all I’m learning about the tradition of the sport and Hawaiian culture. The club members are an enthusiastic and close-knit group. Everyone helps to lug all the canoes in and out of the water, and no one leaves until all the canoes are rinsed and stowed away under the building. Every training session ends with us all (30-35 paddlers on most days) gathering in a circle for announcements and the closing HCC Hawaiian chant.

During the season, there are all kinds of events, from long-distance ocean races to regattas that include quarter- or half-mile sprints. There are also many categories for a race: genders, age ranges, and rookies. The Novice A and B categories are for the rookies like me. It’s somewhat bizarre to be able to compete in a new sport when I’m almost past my sell-by date. 🙂

2013 is an especially exciting year for HCC, as it’s Kauai’s turn to host the State Championships in August, and I’m looking forward to being involved in some way or other. However, I cannot imagine participating in any long distance races, which are relays requiring team members to swap in and out of the canoe at intervals during the event! On those occasions I suspect I’ll restrict myself to the role of spectator and team support! 😉 (Here’s a video clip that shows what those swaps look like on the annual Na Pali Challenge, which starts in Hanalei Bay and heads west along the Na Pali coast down to Port Allen on the south of Kauai.)

Below is a brief gob-smacking look at the 2012 Na Wahine O Ka Kai event – a long distance women’s race from Molokai to O’ahu. The 2012 event was <um> pretty brutal! This clip shows the teams struggling to get out from the shore to the start line! 

No! I’m not in the running for any of our HCC teams for the 2013 Na Wahine O Ka Kai … and, if I had been, I definitely wouldn’t be after seeing this video! 🙂

 

Not born again, just another first birthday

September 22…my first birthday celebration on the island!

It started with Tai Chi at the Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, overlooking the ocean at Hanalei Bay. Serenely beautiful and uplifting.

That was followed by a visit to the Hanalei Farmer’s Market…a regular Saturday event…

…and then brunchfast at the Hanalei Wake Up Cafe – love their excellent omelettes and bottomless coffee mugs.

Later in the morning, Steve and I took a bike ride around Princeville, with a couple of stops…one at the St. Regis, and another at the Westin (to check out the venue for the evening event). We planned the route so that we’d end with a gentle coast downhill to the house. Yes, I know Princeville is pretty damn flat, but neither of us have had the bikes out for a good run since we moved, so the legs were feeling a tad pathetic.

Mid-afternoon, I got a call from the tennis club (Hanalei Bay Resort) saying a friend was looking to hit for a while. Perfect timing! Steve’s been closely following the Fedex Cup, and particularly this final weekend, so I left him in front of the box and got a good one-and-a-half hours workout with a wiry, canny, player whom I first met on my visits last year and thoroughly enjoy playing. Sadly, he’ll be returning to his other home in Thailand in October…a common phenomenon on this island where many folks split their year between two or more homes.

I returned with just enough time for a much needed shower before Steve and I left for my ‘birthday party’. By pure fluke (perhaps less so since this year it fell on a Saturday), my birthday coincided with the Westin’s Jazz and Wine Festival. It was a celebration of and by the various restaurants around the island, together with suitable wine pairings, and some excellent jazz musicians. Proceeds from the silent auction went to the Kauai Lifeguards Association, who perform a necessary and unenviable role here, given the number of visitors who are unaware of the hidden dangers at many of the beaches.

We spent the evening in the company of a number of interesting and amusing folks, enjoying the entertainment, food, and beverages…the latter so much so that we were pleased we’d had the foresight to ride our bikes instead of relying on four wheels.

The trip home was slightly challenging due to the effects of inebriation, but was without incident…until, that is, we reached our driveway, where Steve successfully slowed to a stop but forgot to take his foot off the pedal! 🙂

Darn it! Why is it that the camera isn’t readily available at the most inviting moments?!