Wahinis in Long Beach Paddle Out!
Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
Shortboards. Longboards. Standup paddleboards. Boogie boards. There are lots of ways to ride the waves. But, how about a way that even predates the Hawaiian kings? In an outrigger canoe – the same kind of canoe that brought the ancient Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel talked to Denise Islas, president of the Lokahi Outrigger Canoe Club in Long Beach, to find out more about this women's canoe club. Islas, who loves both the recreational and competitive aspects of the sport, said, "We paddle six days a week," joking that "on the other day I get to see my husband."
Truth be told, she gets to see husband Tony Islas every day because he’s the team's coach...and just as much a diehard fan of outrigger canoeing as she is.
Asked how they got involved in canoeing, Tony told SurfWriter Girls it began in 1997 after they moved from Hawaii to Petaluma, California: "Getting settled in, I happened on a fleet of outrigger canoes while riding my bike by the Petaluma River marina.”
“Later that day, when I told Denise about the canoes, she interrupted me, saying she met a member of the Lokahi Outrigger Club at the bank where she worked. Talk about synchronicity! He invited us to give it a try. We were homesick for the islands and this was the cure!"
Before long Denise, Tony and daughter Rachel (who had canoed in Hawaii) were all canoeing. Denise was the stroker, or seat one. Tony was in seat two. Rachel was the steersperson. "We felt blessed," says Tony. "Not many parents can say that they have competed in a sport with their spouses and kids! And it was a great season."
But, opportunities in SoCal beckoned and soon the Islases moved again, hoping to join an outrigger club in LA/Long Beach. Instead, they ended up starting their own! With help from family and friends and mentor Sam Madeiros, the outrigger coach in Petaluma (and an avid pigeon racer, too!), the SoCal club was launched.
Founded in 1998, the Long Beach branch of the Lokahi Outrigger Canoe Club is a member of the Southern California Outrigger Racing Association (SCORA), which is dedicated to organizing, encouraging and promoting Hawaiian ways and the Aloha Spirit."
Based out of Mother's Beach in Belmont Shore (Appian Way at 2nd Street), the club has two racing seasons - end of January thru mid-September and mid-September thru mid- December (off season).
Sandra Shea, the club's vice president, and daughter Meg both canoe. What started out as a summer vacation activity for Meg is now a year-round ritual. Sandra says, "We love it!" She encourages others to come out and give it a try. Paddlers are always welcome, whether you're new to the sport or a veteran like assistant coach Iris Dulay (shown below).
Priti Vaidya Patel, Director of Therapeutic Recreation at Casa Colina Hospital in Pomona, praises the canoe club highly. She says, "Since 2004 it has been providing our participants with disabilities the amazing experience of canoeing. Tony Islas and his staff and volunteers are an absolute delight."
SurfWriter Girls learned that outrigger canoeing is a great way to exercise and build stamina. It also builds teamwork and friendships since each one in the canoe is critical to the crew's success.
Summing up why they do it, Tony says, "When the conditions and swells are right, nothing beats the feeling of paddling in open ocean and chasing down swells with five of your closest club members."
For the Lokahi Outrigger Canoe Club members it's the perfect way to embrace the Aloha Spirit.
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