Na Wahine O Ke Kai /Women of the Sea

Denise O – Jericho
Na Wahine O Ke Kai – Moloka’i to Oahu-The 25th Crossing

What a beautiful and amazing legacy, and a truly life changing experience! It was my first and the one I will never forget. I believe it is the feeling of being a part of something so much larger than yourself, something that has gone on long before we were ever born, and will go on long after we are gone, that courses through the blood in our veins and sends shivers through our spine. I was asked in an interview once “What does outrigger mean to you?” My answer at the time was something glib and mundane.Then much later I thought more about it. What does it mean? Why in my busy schedule of 40 hour work weeks, grocery shopping, and family obligations do I cram in these countless and often sleep deprived hours on the water training? For what? As my non- sporty friends often point out -it’s not the Olympics. But it was then that it struck me. A simple verse from the movie Dead Poet Society that John Keating (Robin Williams) reads aloud to his class:

“O ME O life!…of the questions of these recurring:
Of the endless trains of the faithless– of cities fill’d with the
foolish;….What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here– that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you might contribute a verse…
That the powerful play goes on, and you might contribute a verse. ”

That’s it. That’s what has compelled me to the Jericho shore day after day, and then to the shore of Moloka’i. And to actually be there…with my team mates and all the many other paddlers who share this same compulsion…indeed obsession at times. The sights the sounds, the smells…but still there is more. A feeling of being a part something so much larger than yourself. A feeling so tangible. I am no poet or writer but there was something about the energy of that remote island, from our team, from the emails that were read aloud from friends at home two nights before the race, from the many generations that have gone before, that inspired me to write these words:

At the start we feel the heat
It’s beating like a drum
Beating like the hearts
Of all the women
Who have come
Who gather on this shore
To be the best that we can be
For ourselves and for each other
The Women Of The Sea.

We bless the Kahi Kili
This boat that we will ride
That it might guide us safely
Till we each the other side.

A blessing for our loved ones
And the ones who can’t be here
We feel your spirits with us now
Your heartbeats we can hear.

No matter what our differences inside this boat we’re one
No matter what the pain we feel or hardships that may come
We will give each other strength
And we shall overcome.

Mahalo to the spirits of the Wind and of the Sea
For watching over Jericho
And our boat Kahi Kili

Mahalo for this Journey
Of the Heart and of the Mind
We bless you now and always
Na Wahine O Ke Kai

~Denise O

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

Still in shock – Na Wahine O Ke Kai

Sabrina Schwanebeck Jericho

A huge Mahalo to everyone who sent us a good luck wish and thought of us on our race day. To the ladies who paddled for us back home Sunday morning, we heard your blessings and prayers. We did pieces for you all. All your energy helped us cross the channel to a great finish and we are now basking in the glory of a 4th open and 6th overall finish.

It was smoking hot and there was very little wind. The seas were to our advantage,on average they were 2-4 ft and we could pick these up well. It is unfortunate the water wasnt bigger, because we get this at Jericho, but in the end we were greatful. Also to our advantage our primary steerswoman was Carol Shick from Santa Barbara Canoe Club.It was tough to look outside the club but it was agreed upon earlier on in the season. We were so pleased with her and she was very proud of the Canadian team that COULD!

We came out strong off the start in Jericho fashion and battled with Outrigger, Kai Opua Masters and Eyecatcher to be second reaching La’au Point. Still a great distance from Mooloolaba but second over all. Needless to say our coach Rick Nu’u was in shock that we were up so far with crews hunting US down! Some time after, Outrigger, Kai Opua and Eyecatcher passed us with different lines and we held fifth overall. Then Offshore masters gained on us and we were pushed back to sixth overall. We paddled hard hammering the whole way across the channel to stay with them and not lose any ground on the crews behind us.

Tahiti was way out south and we thought they would maybe converge at Diamond head and make things interesting, but they fell way back and that was that. Here we stayed for the whole channel keeping 6th over all and in the end finishing 4th Open. We were so dialed in and solid the entire way across that we never let up once. We had to stay tough and determined to keep top 10 and hopefull for top 5 that we way exceeded our own expectations. After the race we were in total shock until late into the evening. I think that in our minds we could always do this but it was still a shock.

During the race a pod of dolphins surfaced around us and we surfed together on the swells. They were playing around the canoe and so close Shannon could have touched one. They came up in pairs on either side of us and seemed to be leading us the right way for easy surfing. They stayed with us for about 5 minutes crossing in front and underneath and then disappeared as quickly as they came. What a beautiful sight to see and this gave us so much energy.

It sounded like Michelle was the driving force behind her crew Lokahi from Oahu. She had a great experience and came away with some excellent knowledge of what to expect for next time.

Rick Nu’u was a blessing to have with us and he didnt let us stray for a minute. He would tell us where all the crews were around us and let us know what we happening at all times. The whole race ran so smooth and his line for us was perfect. We owe him alot and thank our lucky stars he was on OUR team. Again thank you to everyone who helped with fundraising, sponsorships, and in general your support and belief in us. See you all soon then we’ll party!