Catalina – the big picture


Rather than explaining my phenomenal experience at the US
Championships Catalina Crossing, over and over again, here is a
quick synopsis of My experience this weekend. If you’ll notice, I
also titled this “The big picture”. I really think that this
international race has Opened my eyes to the true nature, culture
and excitement of the sport.

The local races are fun but they are only a drop in the pool
compared to the huge oceans of international races, and this average
sized in perspective.

Imagine taking a ferry ride on a fast moving Catamaran looking boat
across the ocean, following a similar course to the one you would be
racing the next day. Imagine blue skies, 27 degree temperatures and
an empty horizon until you see Catalina Island. Imagine palm trees,
green villas, small cottages lining the streets, no cars, just
commuter golf carts (like a little resort town) everywhere.

Imagine sun tanned bodies, a slow relaxed atmosphere and beautiful
clear water. Then you walk up to COCC, Catalina Outrigger Canoe
Club, with a huge backyard/ park as a backdrop with tents lining the
green grass like a city and a big patio area with a big bar and
clubhouse with people sun bathing and drinking colourful drinks with

Then you look to the beach and see row upon row of 6-man canoes
liningthe beach, with huge Samoan, Californian, Tahitian and
Hawaiian bruddas everywhere. Beautiful coconut tans everywhere, (Wahines) women with
Sarongs and Bikini’s, all strong and beautiful female paddlers
getting ready for a night of drinking and partying cause they just
paddled over from Newport beach 47KMs into the horizon.

Imagine the grin on my face as we prepare our own Bradley (the boat
we would race in) for the race the next day. Double check, triple
check the rigging, strap down the bailers, duct tape the
seams…everyone else doing the same thing.

Race day, the nerves are running wild, so our coach boat a good sized
speed boat with plenty of space for chilling out turns on the music,
how fitting that it would be “The Beach Boys…I wish they all could
be California girls…”

Imagine the sight from the ocean, with 46 crews lining the front of
Avalon, the resort town we will depart from. 28 degrees today, with
Blue skies. Team California is a crew with the biggest guys I have
ever seen. Huge Rippling muscles, gigantic reach and incredible
catch when they pull. Then in awe I get a glimpse of a team wearing
all black mesh with Excel logos on their shirts…its team Hawaii/
New Zealand, the number 1 crew in the world, with Karel Tresnick (#1
paddler in the world) steering. Incredible seeing them on the water,
timing, technique, catch, exits…like buttahhh. And for fun there
is even a canoe with only four guys, but two amas, one on each
side and outboard motor and a big sail…crazy fun!!!

I won’t go too much into the race as this would take forever, but
here are some of the high lights…there was a false start that
lasted about 1km before the boats were ordered to stop, way too much
bravado and testosterone on the water…but that’s how it goes.

From what I understand the lead pack was racing amongst a pod of
whales, how crazy is that, imagine doing a change, with men jumping
into the ocean and others pulling themselves up into a fast moving
canoe and next thing you know a whale surfaces and breaches spitting
out and taking in fresh air…how can I describe how this must feel.

Imagine water turbulence everywhere and canoes riding the wakes of
escort boats as they jockey for better lines and superior positions.

Imagine people straining with every fibre in their body to get the
canoe moving as fast as it can before they make the next change.

magine support helicopters flying overhead to watch for “men in grey
suits”…that’s Sharks for those who don’t know. Catalina Island is
famous for having the biggest shark population in the world.

Imagine the finish of the race, weaving through New port beach break
water, passing leisure boats, yachts and other recreational craft as
we race to the finish. Imagine all the tired faces, the exhaustion,
the elation and big grins when we finally cross the finish line.
Crowds everywhere screaming “great job False Creek, well done!!!

Then imagine the sense of camaraderie that occurs as guys from
differentclubs help you get out of the water, and trailer your boat.
Imagine all the stories we share about the race, can you see the
grins on theirfaces as well?

Now we move to the pig roast and awards ceremonies…once again,
coconut tans, bikinis, grass skirts and hats everywhere!!! big
smiles and laughter is contagious as we enjoy the rest of the
festivities. There are Hawaiian dancers honouring the racers with a traditional hula, live Hawaiian singers. Little booths with trinkets and souvenirs to remember the race by. Free beer all night long and friendly faces everywhere.

This was the biggest race I have ever been in. 46 men’s crews, 35
women’screws and 15 mixed crews. one of the people I met told me
that Kona had 130 men’s crews this year and that Molokai’ Hoe would
have 102 crews. I can’t even imagine a line of boats stretching
across the horizon for a km or more. Well, I hope this little email
has left you with the same taste in my mouth…a hunger for more.
More culture, more race, more good times…


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