Moloka’i 2003 – Paddle Hard, Have Fun

Shane – FCRCC

“Go fast and have fun”…this was the reply on Saturday afternoon when
someone asked what our goal was for the Molokai Hoe the next day. At
first glance it might seem a little “light” or recreational statement
for a race such as the Crossing but it sums up the race and the whole
trip quite nicely.

During the week leading up to the race there was never any mention of
where we expected to finish, it didn’t matter. What mattered was
getting nine guys to blend together in a short period of time. What
mattered was having fun, embracing the Aloha spirit and enjoying the
Hawaiian lifestyle. On any given day there were three equally
important tasks to accomplish:
1) Go out and paddle together
2) Get some of the prep work for the race done.
3) Go out and have fun.
It didn’t matter if you went surfing before practice…it mattered that
you went surfing!

“Shut up and paddle” was Lori’s advice when I had asked her about
Moloka’i just before I flew to Oahu. Good advice when you are racing
your first Moloka’i Hoe with an experienced crew. She went on to
give me two rules to follow:
1) You know nothing.
2) If you think you know something and have an urge to say it, keep
your mouth shut and check rule #1.

Those who know me know that these are difficult rules for me but with
the liberal use of duct tape, I was mostly able to keep my mouth shut
and my eyes and ears open. I found out very quickly that Lori’s
rules were pretty much on target. The way I was used to paddling at
home and the way I needed to paddle in Hawaii were not the same and
figuring out the necessary changes took all of our practice days and
a lot of patience from the more experienced crew members.

Race Day

By 5:40am on Sunday we had forced down some breakfast, loaded our
bags into a car going to the escort boat and piled into the back of a
truck for the ride down to the Hale O Lono. It was a quiet and cold
ride down to the beach where the canoes were waiting. After a final
check, our canoe was put in the water and the starting crew sent
off. With hands full of flip flops and water bottles, we made our
way to the escort boat loading area, found our boat and quickly said
goodbye to dry land. Before we had even left the lagoon, the first
casualty of the race was reported over the radio: an escort boat
leaving the lagoon had collided with a canoe, breaking the canoe in
half. Someone’s race was over before it began.

The race itself seemed surprisingly quick. At 7:25am, 5 minutes
before the official start time, the race started…our escort boat
hadn’t even cleared the lagoon yet as we were waiting to make sure
that the escort boats for the other teams related to our host club,
Hui Nalu, were on the water and no one was left behind. We caught up
with our crew at Lau’u point as the go ahead to start changes was
given. We proceeded with a series of one-man changes to get everyone
back into their proper pairings so that we could get the regular
rotations working.

In what seemed like no time at all, we were close to the other side
of the channel, approaching Oahu. For the past couple changes we had
been running with Hui Lanikila 2 and Kawaihae in a three-way battle
taking turns leading our little pack. As we got closer to shore, we
reeled in Kawaihae and began to overtake them when a sloppy change
caused them to huli. It was impressive to see how quickly they had
their canoe righted and bailed and in no time at all, they came back
with a vengeance not wanting to give up on the fight with Hui
Lanikila and us.

Coming into Hawaii Kai, it became a battle between local steersmen as
both Hui Lanikila’s helmsman and ours considered this home turf. We
fought hard but by the time we reached Diamond Head, they had opened
up a 300-meter lead. Unfortunately we didn’t get another chance to
reel them in. As Cam, Vlad and I sat in the escort boat paralleling
our canoe, we suddenly felt the boat rise and fall hard as a large
wave rolled under us. Looking over we watched it bear down on the
ama side of the canoe and get steeper and steeper until it began to
break. Breathlessly, we watched as our canoe disappeared and quietly
counted off the seconds waiting to see if they would survive.
Suddenly the ama broke through the crest, followed by the bow as the
boat spun into the wave. The force of the wave was so great that the
boat began to surf backwards down the wave. All six paddlers paddled
hard trying to get beyond the wave, fearful of the reef behind them.
The crew successfully pulled through the wave and quickly worked
their way offshore to minimize the risk of a second wave catching
us. The wave incident cost us valuable distance over the Lanakila
crew behind us so a succession of quick one-man changes was done to
keep the boat moving quickly and maintain our lead to the finish.

We paddled hard, we went fast and we had fun. I can’t wait to go


2003 FCRCC Molokai Crew
Bruce Blankenfeld
Cam Fagrie
Dave Jensen
Don Irvine
Greg “The Legend” Poole
Shane Martin
Terry Lewis
Tony Van Buren
Vlad Tucakov

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