Sunrise over the ocean. High 82, low 65
This morning we got up before the sun, had some coffee and a lara bar in the car and rushed to the Wailua River. Today is the day for our first outrigger canoe class with The Kawaikini Canoe Club. We are eager and show up at 8am, like we were told. No one else is here. The state park is a popular tourist spot, there are a lot of services provided here, with the Smith family being the largest provider. While we wait for the canoe group, we talk with the visitor center folks. Both natives, and familiar with our canoe club, they laugh and tell us Hawaiian time would mean between 8 and 9, probably 9. Darlene, a little round lady of Chinese decent, is in her 60's. She was a paddler for 17 years and kindly gives us a rundown of etiquette and jargon. She also says this part of the Wailua is brackish (when fresh water and salt water are mixed), making the water thicker, once you get out on the ocean "you will be amazed at how much easier it is". They wish us luck as we cheerfully head to the river, laughing at their remembered first day and the soreness that ensued.
We walk into a grassy, cool clearing, shaded by trees. Beside the river there is a circle of women doing warm up exercises. I feel Dan's energy sink as the realization that he is the only man unfolds in his mind. Undaunted, he joins right in. Dawn, the president of the canoe club and who I have been corresponding with via e-mail, warmly welcomes us, as Sam, her daughter plays fetch with their dog. Dogs are ok in state parks. Our coach Madori, a beautiful, dark skinned and fit middle aged woman, guides us through 15 minutes of stretching, calisthenics and running exercises before we get to paddle.
We learn that there is to be a huli drill today (click on the words huli drill to see a video). A huli drill is when you intentionally capsize the canoe and upright it, practicing for when it really happens. Before that, we are divided into two groups the competitors and the cruisers. The coach and competitors head out to the ocean, the cruisers run the river. The Wailua river flows into the ocean so it's easy to accommodate both groups. Assigned to the cruisers, Dan and I get a quick lesson from Dawn then help unload the canoes. Weighing 400 pounds, the 6 man canoe requires everyone's help to get it into the water.
Position 1, seated at the front of the boat, sets the pace. Everyone follows, watching the paddle going in and out of the water, matching the stride. Position 2, counts the strokes and calls out when to switch sides. With everyone is in unison, all the paddles come out of the water and switch sides. When the word "hoe"is called out, your paddle should be reentering the water. The word hoe means paddle in Hawaiian. Position 3, 4 and 5 paddle, and position 6 steers. In our case position 6 also called out directions, like get ready to turn, and pointing out when a paddler was out of sync. Dan and I were assigned paddler positions and off we went, maybe a mile in total. I wanted to do good, I knew these ladies were serious and weren't looking forward to any newbie's. I focused on position one's paddle, the most important thing being synchronicity. I didn't look around, I paddled. Once I got the rhythm, I tried switching my lead leg as I switched my arm position. Sometimes I was successful, most times I forgot. There were moments when we were all in sync and it was beautiful, meditative. The cool water splashing on your hot, strong arms (or soon to be) and the beauty all around was exhilarating. The combination of power and beauty somehow create a peaceful effect. I've never been one for team sports but, something about this is different. It's a real team effort, everyone works in a rhythm. There is not much room for competing (maybe for positions) you have to be in sync with each other or you can die. One off centered move to the right (opposite of the outrigger side) and everyone is in the water.
We get off the canoes and walk under the bridge where the river and ocean converge. It's almost time for the huil drills and we want to see where the coach with her boat of competitors are. Carol (position 6) and I squint into the horizon, looking for them. Dan walks up and, with his bionic eyes, spots them about a quarter mile straight out, maybe a mile and a half down the shore. Carol tests the strength of the convergence to see how best to guide the boat into the river. Madori has a different idea, the current is strong and an exposed rock is in the middle. As the team pulls onto shore everyone helps to push the boat around the narrow channel and back into the river.
Dawn President, Kawaikini Canoe Club
Carol checking the convergence
Dan and Diana
Once inside the secluded safety of the river, the huli drill starts. Everyone in the boat paddles out to the center and stops. Madori calls out a countdown 3...2...1... and they capsize the boat. Madori does a roll call to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Once a person answers roll call they begin their assigned duty. Position 1, 3 and 6 go to the outrigger side, 2 and 4 the opposite, and begin to upright the boat. Position five's responsibility is to gather all of the paddles. You don't chat, you don't dilly dally, you only do your assigned duty. In under a minute, the boat is upright and everyone on shore sends out a great cheer. Position 3 and 4 bail like crazy until everyone is in. Paddles are redistributed, quickly passed under the seats, and position 5 bails until the boat is mostly empty of water. As they paddle back to shore someone looks at us as asks us if we are going to do it. Dan is ready but I'm hesitant. Once we learn that there may not be another huli drill for 6 weeks, that you can't go out into the ocean until you have done one AND a new sport regulation means no paddling until you huli, I say, why yes, I think I'd like to huli today!
Madori, in black, giving instruction
Ready to Huli
I am assigned position 2 and Dan is 4, which means we will be helping to upright the canoe. At first I don't have a problem with this. It is not until I look at the boat and see where position 2 is, that I feel anxiety beginning to bubble in my stomach. The 25' long boat is perpendicular to the water and only the nose is on shore. As I walk deeper and deeper into the water I wonder how the hell I am going to get into the boat! Dan, in waist high water, jumps right in. Once I reach the second seat, the water is up to my chest. I begin trying to quickly muscle my way in. I struggle, hoisting myself up, using only my arms. My legs flail around in the water (which is now to my waist). Splashing around like a fish out of water, I battle to get my girth into the boat. When I am really nervous, I laugh. Ha Ha Ha. Everyone is quiet, everyone is watching. I exclaim "How embarrassing!" In unison, the women cry out, "Nooooooo! It's ok, it's always hard the first time, you'll get it, you're doing fine". I am comforted, happy to know that the only man here is my husband, and he'll always pick me for his team. I stop, spent, and hang onto the arms that attach the outrigger to the canoe. Madori tells me to relax and swims over to me. Very calmly, she shows me how to get in front of the seat, hold onto the side of the boat, lift my lead leg into the boat, hook it under the seat, grab onto the other side and lift myself in. Easy, I get right in with no problems. I do have a nice bruise the length of my inner right thigh and on the inside of my left arm though. Finally in, we paddle out to the center of the river. Sam is in position one and, braving scolding from position six, she quickly tells me "as soon as you are in the water, drop your paddle and swim under the boat to the other side." "But I'm supposed to be on this side." "Yes", she says "but when the boat is upside down it'll be on the other side" "Oh, right" I say. Doh!! We pause, position six counts down and we are in the water. I let my paddle go, come up for air and wait to be called. Replying that I am safe, I overshoot to the other side and get into position. Very quickly everyone is ready and someone counts down. With very little effort, the boat is upright in seconds and a round of applause from shore goes up. I easily hook my leg and hop into the boat.
I am ecstatic, jubilant! What a beautiful experience. We help wrap things up and rinse off. While we are rinsing off, we are told where ever there is brackish water, there is a bacteria called leptospirosis which will give you flu like symptoms for a couple of days. We rinse thoroughly! Walking to the parking lot with Dawn, Dan and I are ready to pay $270.00 (135.00 each) for the annual fee. Dawn explains that this is a commitment. Practice is every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday with competitions (that can last all day) interspersed. The Tuesday and Thursday practices start at 4:30 and are for competitors. There is a rigorous 60 minute workout proceeding any paddling. Paddling starts at 5:30 and goes until sunset. It's club policy to have potential members practice for 2 weeks (at no charge) before they will be accepted. Dan and I leave, ready for Tuesday.
I'm feeling guilty that Baxter and Lucy have not gone out to play, really play and run, since we've been here. Dan and I decide to have lunch at the Olympic Cafe, go home and get the dogs, and find a place to run them off leash. I am starving and want to eat healthy so I get the Ahi tuna with 2 eggs and rice. Dan get's miga's with homefries.
Baxter, giving me the "I'm sick of being stuck in this house all day while you go out" look.
Old Town Kapa'a from the Olympic Cafe's balcony.
After some side excursions, looking for a place closer to home, we find the place Dawn had told us about. It's just past the Wailua Golf Course, down a bumpy dirt road for about a mile, to the ocean. I'll let the pictures speak for the beauty! Baxter played fetch for about an hour and a half. We were having so much fun, and Lucy, timid of the waves, wanted to join in. Her idea was to steal Baxter's stick after he returned it to me. I ended up having two sticks so she could take one while we played fetch with the other. If I threw the stick out too far, Baxter would look at me, give a little whine, walk forward a few steps, come back, look at me, look at the stick, and look back at me. I started walking to the stick and he'd follow me out, becoming more brave overtime. At one point I turned to walk back to shore and there was Lucy, right behind me in 3 feet of water, courageously swimming her butt off! I was so proud of my baby girl (well, she is 8 this year), she did it three times!
Nice, but too close to the (2 lane) highway
Back at home we are tired. All we want is a quick shower, some tasty dinner and TV time.
Whole wheat EINSTEIN bagel, avocado, baby lettuce mix, fresh basil, mayo, dijon and turkey sammies with Kale chips, a healthy and delicious replacement for potato chips.