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  • Elayna Henderson

In Defense Of Pt.7: Joining The Paddling Team

The first day of the winter break paddling practices was by far one of the most memorable practices I have ever attended. We went out early that morning before Christmas in the six-man canoe leading and the two-man following alongside. The water was flat, and still a bit murky from the storm the week prior. As soon as we left the harbor, we were met with a pod of close to 50 dolphins. Smiles spread across all of our faces, and they did not leave until practice was over. The team traveled 8.5 miles that day, and saw not only the dolphins, but two whales as well. Before our final practice, we all sat on the bus together and discussed our favorite moments from the season.


From the swim test at the beginning of the season, to Saturday practices spent paddling to Mau'umae beach, to surfing and hanging out before winter practices, everyone could agree that the paddling team partook in many truly special experiences. With practices three to four times a week, and races almost every weekend, it is definitely not for everyone. But the little moments during and after practices make it all worth it, from the moment we arrive at Kawaihae harbor, to the moment we finish our cheer at the end of the day.


We arrive at Kawaihae around 3:30, and all hop off the bus. Together, we lift the canoes onto the wheels, and push them down into the water. We paddle out into the harbor, and spend practices working on our technique, switching seats with each other to find the right flow. Usually the only things that can be heard are the changes being called, or occasionally, Coach Eric stopping us to correct something. We stay out on the water for an hour and a half before paddling back in, loading the canoes back onto the beach, and putting them away. By this point, the sun is just beginning to set, and often we will all go and jump into the water for a few minutes before showering off and completing practice with the Parker School Paddling Cheer---a tradition that has carried through many seasons.


Race Days are always fun, arriving at the school before the sun comes up, and driving to Hilo or Kona. The sun comes up as we arrive at the race, the flags already up. In the past, the Parker School paddling team has been very strong, often dominating at the JV level. We spend the morning racing, before getting lunch and heading home. Taco Bell and Ken’s House of Pancakes are two team favorites.


While paddling might not be for everyone, I encourage everyone to try it at least once. There is a place for everyone in the canoe, whether it be stroking in the front, muscling the canoe in the middle, or steering in the back. This year, the team had around15 people, with everyone getting a chance to race. You will get big muscles, and great experiences with the team and the ocean.


(Photo By Jill Henderson)

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