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November 15, 2010

p9 Designer: Jillian Parel

A passion for paddling: The canoe race from Molokai to Waikiki by Claudia Breisa, student writer

“I tried it, I loved it from the beginning, and I knew this is my thing,” graduate student Jaroslav Turcan says of his passion for paddling. Months of hard practice came to fruition for Turcan on Oct. 10, when he participated in the Molokai Hoe race from Hale o Lono Harbor in Molokai to Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki with a crew from the Waikiki Beachboys Canoe Club. The prestigious long-distance race across the Kaiwi Channel drew families and friends, as well as paddling fans and tourists, to Waikiki as 119 crews from around the world – as far away as Germany, Australia and even Russia – tackled the 40.8mile course. The atmosphere at the finish line was quiet, yet suspenseful. While the organizational crew tried to get the last swimmers away from the two yellow buoys that marked the race’s end, a black helicopter appeared on the horizon, circling over the sea and the first crew. Minutes later Shell Va‘a, the winning crew from Tahiti, came in sight and the crowd started cheering the paddlers from the beach. With nearly 13 minutes between first and second place, Shell Va‘a crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 38 minutes and 50 seconds, just missing its own 2008 record by 15 seconds. It was the crew’s fifth consecutive win. As soon as the canoe reached the beach, big knots of people gathered around the athletes to welcome and congratulate them. The sound of a traditional conch shell heralded their arrival.

Tahitian crews dominated the race by securing the first four spots. The first local crew, Team Primo, came in fifth place after 4 hours, 57 minutes and 21 seconds. “The Tahitians are just out of our league,” said Turcan, who is working toward a master’s degree in global leadership and sustainable development. “Molokai Hoe is the ultimate long-distance race and outrigger canoeing is immensely popular in Tahiti.” The Waikiki Beachboys had four crews and 36 paddlers – nine per canoe – compete in the race. Turcan and his crew crossed the finish line after 6 hours, 8 minutes and 11 seconds to place 60th, about 23 minutes after the first Beachboys canoe reached the small bay in front of the Hilton. The canoes are accompanied by escort boats, from which the change captain orders the athletes to switch places every 12 to 15 minutes during the race. It is a finely tuned process as three paddlers heave themselves out of the six-man-boat into the ocean and their replacements climb into their positions in the canoes – all while being surrounded by 10-foot waves. The race goes on while the first three crew members climb into the escort boat to rest and restore their energy levels with Gatorade, water, peanut-butter sandwiches and Snickers bars. Since this was Turcan’s first time participating in the Molokai Hoe, his crew’s change captain decided he could stay in the canoe as it crossed the finish line. The Molokai Hoe marks the high point and end of the paddling season, which resumes in April. Until then, the Waikiki

Experience paddling first-hand with the Waikiki Beach Boys through their social paddling workshops.

Photo by Claudia Breisa Beachboys Canoe Club organizes “social paddling sessions” for current and new members, and for anyone else who wants to try paddling. “You don’t need to have any kind of experience,” said Turcan, who began paddling after visiting a Beachboys “social paddling” event last November. “A friend recommended the club. I practiced rowing for eight years back in Serbia, and I like pretty much all kinds of sports that get me into the water, so I decided to try. “I really like the fact that everybody can do it,” Turcan said. “But you have to be able to swim. There is a chance that the canoe might capsize at some point.” The Waikiki Beachboys Canoe Club is at the Ala Wai Canal between Kapiolani Boulevard and McCully Street, and welcomes everybody interested in paddling. Social paddling sessions start in November. Visit for more information.


LIFESTYLES p9 November 15, 2010