Tuesday, May 4, 2010
STEINLAGER KAIWI CHANNEL SOLO OC1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
April 19th, 2010
There is no explanation to why feeling pain is so good, but I am realizing this feeling is an addiction. Today I woke up sore, tired and extremely happy. This is all because I paddled across the challenging channel between the two hawaiian Islands, Molokai to Oahu. It wasn't my first time, in fact, I lost count how many times I’ve done this crossing, but this was the one I was expecting for so many years. There was plenty of wind, surf and tuff competition making it a fast and extremely fun channel crossing.
Paddling from Molokai to Oahu is a very competitive race among world wide outrigger canoe paddlers. It is a 32 mile course, starting on the West shore of Molokai, Kaluakoi beach, and ending at the south shore of Oahu, Hawai Kai Bay. Each paddler must have their own escort boat to guide, coach and support them across the channel. There are many challenges to be taken when entering this race, one is finishing it. The feeling of arriving to another Island is insane. It brings back history, it makes you feel victorious, it pays back from all the pain after many hours in the open ocean, and it gives appreciation for land. But if the goal is to win the race, the challenges are even more complex; such as taking the fastest route, understand the ocean and its tides, strong currents and condition changes. It is also about being able to paddle smart and as hard as you can for as long as it takes until you get to the finish line. If the gold medal is the goal felling tired is not accepted out there.
I didn't win it, I placed second, but it was still the best one ever. I’ve won this channel before, on flat water condition and little competition in the race, and the satisfaction wasn’t the same. Yesterday the ocean conditions where perfect and I got to race against Lauren Bartlett, the world best outrigger paddler. We are both really good friends and actually paddle for the same canoe team, but when it comes down to racing solo we have to face each other. The forecast was calling for NNE winds and a rising tide, which I expected some really good surfing on the beginning and a possible challenging current pushing away from Oahu. I knew I had to use the surfing as my chance make this into a race.
The race started. I had position myself right next to Louren, because, besides having fun, she was also my goal after all. As always she sprinted down the line, having an amazing start and leaving the women behind. I let her go, focused on my breathing, my technic, and my surfing skills. The fun started. Bump after bump, waves rolled by, the canoe was flying, the ama was light and I was able to connect waves and have amazing rides. Even though my friends from my escort boat tell me I paddled with a mad face expression, I was having a blast. I was living my dream. I was enjoying the moment I waited for, with so many training and organizing for this race. The ocean was moving all over the place, waves going right and left, all I had to do was make good use of the glides. I started using my speed to catch up to the beast. Her line (route) was my line. I knew she had the experience and I trusted where she was going. We both stayed together for a while, surfing bumps, flying our canoes towards Oahu, and racing hard against each other. Helicopter, media boats, and escorts surrounded us turning the moment into a loud, intense and challenging race. A couple of times I surfed some long bumps, passing her, battling to keep my position. At the same time I wanted to win so bad, it was funny to be right next to my friend, seeing her escort boat with also my friends and knowing we are all one big family. We are both moms, wives, and hard workers at our jobs. We trained together back at home, and we both wished we could of trained a lot harder if it wasn’t for the daily life duties. But, there we were, racing each other, crossing the channel and having as much fun as we could have.
After a while battling side by side, Louren started making ground on me, pushing the route to the north. Initially I followed her, keeping my mind and body strong. Minutes later I heard Joscelyn and Sid yelling from my escort boat, “surf it, you have a good line”. An escort boat in this race is more then friends cheering you and giving fluid support, they are your GPS. Our strategy then was to keep our line a little lower then our competition, with the objective of playing with their mind and bring them back to our course, where I was doing well and surfing fast. I kept in mind to not go too south and fall out of my route. For the next hour I had her on my right shoulder point of view and Oahu l right ahead of me. There was another seven miles to go. I had to get there before the expected strong current kills me. At this point on the race I had to focus on my body, keep away the aches and fatigue. That’s when I kept surprising myself how strong I was feeling. Usually, at this time in past channel crossings, I am really suffering, as we say ”hitting the wall”. But I never hit the wall. Waves were still rolling and I made good use of them. We were few miles way from Oahu and I haven't even paddled for 4 hours yet. It felt was fast! We where already there, surfing Oahu’s shoreline, gliding across the China’s mens Wall right outside Hawaii Kay bay. Another mile or two into the bay, battling the offshore wind and the race was finished. The one race I prepared myself so much. I finished.
As I paddle across the finish line my mind is talking to me and my emotions are taking over my soul. This is more then a race. This is a crossing. This is the ocean connection I live for. There is so much involved that I feel like crying - a feeling that I get every single time I finish this crossing. It doesn't matter how many times or which place, it is beyond my words what it feels to simply arrive and reach your goal. As I power my last strokes, I think about my daughter and how she says she is proud her mom, and cries to come along to paddle the channel. I think about my escort boat and my friends who were part of this race just as much as I was. I feel the urge to call every single friend and thank them for all they did for me to make this possible.
My race is done, 32 miles in 4 hours and 22 minutes. Time to flip the page and get ready for the next crossing, two weeks from today, on the the relay channel which I am teaming up with the one beast that just beat me. Then I’ll flip the page again and get ready for the same channel crossing solo on a Stand Up paddle board. Another challenging competition that I’ll have to train hard to prepare myself . When that is done I’ll be getting ready to cross this channel for the 4th time in 5 months on a six-man canoe, with team Bradley, with the goal of holding our title and time record. Basically, crossing from Molokai to Oahu will always be a race and a tough world recognized competition but way beyond that - it is an addiction. What makes my soul come back to the waters of the Kaiwi channel is unexplainable. Preparation is mentally, physically and financially. The benefit is a graceful happiness within myself that will spread positivity to those who surround me.