For the third time in eight years, a group of Kahnawa’kehró:non headed to paradise to paddle in the world’s largest long distance outrigger canoe race.
Over the Labour Day weekend, a six-person outrigger crew from Onake finished ninth place at the annual Queen Lili’uokalani Race, which is hosted by the Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club in Hawaii.
“Countries from all over the world are represented,” said Sharon Rice.
Rice, along with Terri Thomas, Christine Taylor, Louise Lahache, Lisa Montour and Lynn Rice, returned to the Pacific Ocean on September 5 to paddle the 18-mile race from the Kailua Bay to Honaunau for the third time.
The crew finished the course in two hours and 52 minutes, giving them a ninth place finish out a dozen crews in their division.
“We just had a really good race, good time and represented ourselves and community very well,” said Rice.
Although the crew finished the race with similar times in past years, Rice said the water conditions were a lot harder this time around.
“It was very hot and humid. Because they had a lot of tropical storms and hurricanes, the water was a lot rougher,” said Rice.
The heat was also a factor.
“The sun was drilling on us, not to a point where anyone got sick, but it was just another factor that you have to fight with physically and mentally,” said Lahache, “I totally loved the experience, though, and would do it again.”
The women have been training since April, spending 10 to 15 kilometres on the water with each practice.
“It is hard to simulate ocean when we have nothing near the ocean, so when we’re getting ready for the race, we always went up into the lake, whether there was whitecaps in the water, when we saw ships, we’d go into the waves,” said Rice.
Lahache said their crew performed to the best of the abilities under the circumstances – an outrigger is a canoe intended for the ocean and they practice in the flat waters of the St. Lawrence River.
“We can’t compete against the Hawaiians and Tahitian paddlers when that’s their water,” said Rice.
“They live there – they breathe and drink the water,” added Lahache.
Rather than focusing on bringing home a medal, the women set goals that revolved around teamwork, representing the community and finishing in less than three hours.
“We achieved all the goals that we set for ourselves and we were very happy with or time. We look forward to more races in the future together,” said Rice.
The crew is now planning to go to another race in Clearwater, Florida for another race at the end of October.