DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jericho Canoe Club's senior masters crew prepared to practice off Kailua
Beach with a borrowed outigger canoe from Kailua Canoe Club. The crew
consists of mostly paddlers from Vancouver, B.C.
Canadians seek improvement
By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin, October 11, 2003
These guys tote
"sticks" and share the accent of hockey players -- at least the
ones from Canada.
But this team's sticks
are used to pull water rather than slap pucks; its members prefer the open
ocean to the frozen rink. Known as Jericho, this is three crews' worth of
dedicated and ambitious Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddlers. ... Yes, the ones
canoeing in Canada has just grown exponentially -- just gone nuts -- in the
last five years or so," said Melanie Whittall, a Canadian manufacturer
of solo canoes and owner of an online paddling store. Whittall also serves as
a support coach for Jericho. "It's appealing: a bigger boat, working
with a team, the distance aspect. And we live on the water, too."
"I remember the
first race I did there were three or four canoes," said Jericho paddler
and coach Gabe Somjen, who started with outriggers in Canada 15 years ago.
"Now, sometimes there are over 40. That's pretty good."
Canada actually has a
rich paddling history, starting long ago with its native Indians and
continuing more recently with flat-water sprinting in kayak-type vessels.
Paddling with open-ocean outriggers is a comparatively new sport for these
Canucks -- but it's one to which a growing number of them are showing the
wearing fleece vests and stroking in pitch dark during the short days of
winter, Jericho, formed just more than a decade ago, is a strictly outrigger
organization based in Vancouver. The club is in Hawaii for tomorrow's 52nd
annual Hawaii Modular Space Molokai Hoe, a 41-mile race from Molokai to Oahu
across the treacherous Kaiwi Channel that's considered the world championship
of long-distance outrigger canoe paddling.
Rai, of Tahiti, is the
defending champion. Team New Zealand/Hawaii, the 2001 champ, is another
favorite, having dominated the Hawaii events leading up to this year's
Molokai Hoe. An international field of more than 100 crews is expected to
participate, including Team Italia, a crew of Italian nationals living in the
U.S. and in Italy.
"We paddle all
year long specifically with the idea of doing well at this race," said
Paul McNamara, the club commodore and men's coach, as well as the steersman
for Jericho's top open division crew. "We've been kind of the dominant
club in Canada for the last five years, but we'd obviously like to do well
comprise the Canadian Outrigger Racing Association, but besides Jericho only
a single crew from False Creek Racing, also based in Vancouver, will race
tomorrow. For Jericho, this will be the ninth time it has participated in the
last 10 years.
And this club has done
well -- not just in Canada. Last year, out of 106 crews, Jericho secured its
best-ever men's result with a No. 16 finish in the open division, the 18th
boat to cross overall. Just two weeks ago in the Na Wahine O Ke Kai, the
women's world championship, Jericho finished fourth in the open, sixth
overall -- best ever for a Canadian team in either race.
on," said McNamara. "The standard has been raised."
The club has brought
two open crews to this year's Molokai Hoe, as well as the first senior
masters (45-older) crew to represent Canada -- or, basically, almost all of
the 30 or so male paddlers in the 60-person club. Because not everyone could
make the trip to Hawaii, the senior masters is actually a composite crew of
six Jericho, one False Creek and two Mountain Home (Portland, Ore.) paddlers
racing under the Jericho name.
The goal for Jericho's
top open crew is to finish among the top 10 overall. All but one of its nine
members has competed in the race before, with McNamara having the most
experience in going for his 10th consecutive crossing (he paddled with a
California club the one year Jericho didn't participate). "We have good
quality paddlers for this race," McNamara said.
The other two Jericho
crews -- with many rookie Molokai Hoe paddlers -- are simply gunning to race
as well and as quickly as they can. Not that they're slouches, though: The
senior masters went undefeated in local competition this year.
According to Jericho
members, their two biggest challenges during the race will be the heat and
wave action -- two things they just don't experience regularly back home in
Vancouver. But the open crews arrived in Hawaii two weeks ago and the senior
masters a week ago to better cope with these concerns.
"there's definitely excitement, anticipation," said Stu McMaster,
the lone Molokai Hoe rookie on the first-string open crew. "I started
(preparing for) this in January, and each one of us has put in a lot of
hours, in the water, training. ... We had a goal in mind ... to put a strong
crew together for this year's race. If we placed in the top 10, that would be
quite an accomplishment."
Said Peter Forand, a
senior masters member and another first-time participant: "This is the
Super Bowl of paddling. The excitement is mind-blowing for us. This is our
News - Courtesy of Honolulu Star-Bulletin.