Call us 541-382-5355

Women In Paddling

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Team's Journey to Molokai

Our decision to do Molokai this year came on the backs of some pretty big successes.  2010 had been an awesome year for our Canadian team with both Open and Masters World Sprint Championships titles, followed up with a first place finish in Kona.  It seemed natural to want to test ourselves in the last and perhaps biggest challenge of the three outrigger disciplines – the open ocean!  And while success can breed confidence, it also brings with it expectation.

There is no doubt about it; our challenges were big in our bid toward this year’s Na Wahine O Ke Kai.  Being a Canadian select team means we’re scattered all over the country, so training together was limited to one three day training camp in Vancouver at the beginning of September.  We had four never-ever channel virgins on the crew, two of which had never done a change let alone a change race before.  We were a predominately flat-water crew with almost half of the team training exclusively on lakes.  Somehow though, none of this managed to dampen our desire or our thoughts of victory. 

Our decision to do the Pailolo race the week before the channel seemed like a no brainer.  It was the perfect way to give ourselves one good test run without the pressure of the big race hanging over us.  Well it tested us for sure!  Kicked our asses to be more exact!  The water was big for this bunch of flat-water Canadian girls and we pretty much made every mistake in the book.  And while a 4th place finish might have seemed good on paper, we were a full 30minutes behind the winners – Team Bradley - in a 3 1/2 hour race.  

Enter expectation! The proverbial fun wrecker!  For me we might as well have come last.  We had a mountain to climb before the channel and we had only a week to climb it.  Not only that, but our team was battle worn.  Two girls had suffered broken ribs, both very severe, and there were two tweaked shoulders.  Perhaps our biggest hurdle to overcome however was resistance – the resistance of a mostly flat-water mindset to adjust to the challenges of open water paddling.

And so the learning and the healing began.  While the injured visited the hospital and physio the rest of us did downwinds in one-mans and the six-man.  Each training session brought new insight and small but steady breakthroughs.  By the end of the week we had made good headway on the surfing front, offering a return to confidence.  Most importantly though, our injured had strengthened enough to feel able to race.   

This year’s Na Wahine saw 72 teams on the start line.  Being the steersman means I get to choose where we line up.  I thought I had nailed it with an experienced steersman on either side of me.  But then that last minute canoe squeezed in on our left and a sinking feeling set in.  She was distracted and inattentive to her canoe and when the horn sounded she promptly smashed into us.  Far out!  We were 1 minute into the race and risking a huli.  Unable to shake them, I instructed the team to stop paddling and let them go, which we did, finally freeing up the space to find our rhythm. Despite the setback we were still 2nd team to Laau point – an excellent start. 
Our coach Rick Nu’u and escort boat driver Karel Tresnak had made the call to run the rumline on a southerly course to Diamond Head buoy.  The Beach Girls, Team Bradley and Hui Nalu all ran a northerly course toward Portlock.  What a difference a week makes!  Instead of just surviving, we were racing!  We surfed away from everyone else on our southerly line and became embroiled in a battle with Hui Nalu for 3rd.  Being on very different lines only added to the excitement as we both raced toward Oahu never really knowing who had the edge.  As we approached Diamond Head it became clear that Hui Nalu’s inside line had a distinct advantage.  We arrived at Waikiki a solid 4th and remained that way across the line.  Our time was 5hr41min, 16minutes behind the winners – The Beach Girls.  

           We finished 4th again.  But this 4th was different.  This 4th had a story.  It was a story of acceptance, growth and perseverance.  I got to win this race once and it was amazing.  I came in 2nd too and it was amazing.  Now I have a 4th place finish that is amazing!  We had an awesome race, made few mistakes, never had a bad combo and overcame some big obstacles in the week leading up.  It is the effort that makes the amazing and that is where the winning came for me. 
A special thanks to KIALOA Paddles for their continued commitment to making us better competitors with their innovative designs and construction.  To Karel Tresnak and Outrigger Connection for the beautiful M2 canoe.  It was perfect.  To Stéphane for stepping up whenever we needed him. To Lauren Barlett and her family for hosting our entire team in Maui.  To Rick Nu’u for abandoning the farm for the weekend to guide us across the channel.  And to our families that put up with the tired us, the hungry us, the training us, the often grumpy us for months and months and months! 

Cheryl Skribe         

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Call us: 541-382-5355 | Contact Us
Facebook Twitter