“You can swim right?” Asked Kenika as I swiftly filled in a waiver form and found a paddle the right size. Next thing I know, I’m thigh deep in the warm sea helping to launch the double hull. It was definitely a ‘learn by doing’ approach. My previous experience in rafts and kayaks in the uk and elsewhere was useful in the technique of paddling. However, something entirely new was the synchronised change of sides. A shout from Stan at the front, echoed by everyone else gives you the order to switch your paddle to the other side. Something like this:
Everyone “hah” and then switch. But in time with the collective stroke rate, meaning you have to gently throw your own paddle in front of you to switch hands. (It was definitely easier to watch and learn than try and write it down!)
As the rain began to fall more heavily, we made swift progress towards to outer wall of Hilo Bay. We practiced different stroke lengths and speeds on the clear and firm instruction of coach Stan. My changes were getting better and it felt great to be part of a strong and synchronised team moving quickly through the water. The most alarming part of the practice was when paddlers from the single hull switched with paddlers in the double hull. This involved jumping into the sea and swimming between the boats to the (hopefully) jokes about the sea monsters that might eat the swimmers. (Don’t worry mum, I didn’t switch boats!)
When we had brought the canoes back up to land I had a moment to chat with a couple of my fellow paddlers before a few sets of pushups and crunches. The club was gearing up for the regatta season, with races ranging from a couple of miles to races of 40 plus miles taking 4 or 5 hours. Members of the club take training seriously and are required to come to practice two or three times a weeks as well as cross-train in their own time. “Well we want to win don’t we?!” Said Kenika. Having said that, the club is open to anyone who wants to have a go, with around 150 active members. Kids’ practice is available every day with adults afterwards.
Find out more about the club at their website.