[Join Jocelyn and this novice group (nicknamed "Whatacrew") as they take on their longest race yet, the Monterey Bay Crossing. After an amazing season, this ended up being the final bang to go out on! This is part of our MBX2015 Race Recap.]
This past weekend "WhattaCrew" faced their biggest challenge yet. A full novice crew, who decided to take on the Monterey Bay Challenge, Ironed the entire 26 miles.
As I sit here, not sure how to even start describing the entire experience from beginning to end, I go back to the first day we were all tossed into a canoe together and knew immediately this was about to be one EPIC ride! Let me tell you how we earned our vacation...
Our first long distance race together was the Lake Tahoe challenge under the name Mixed Nuts, which is also quite fitting for us. We took 1st in our division and 1st overall. Having our He’e Nalu ohana jumping and cheering us into the finish made our Stroker, Janet Wainiqolo lose it and show us her most attractive ugly cry ever. Having just come to our club and being accepted with open arms and such support was a huge deal. What a way to be greeted at the end!
Our second race was the ‘Round the Rock Challenge. As a 2nd year steerswoman, this was my biggest challenge at the time. My 1st year, I only steered a few sprints and practices on the river. Adding that my first open water race in Monterey, I accidentally huli’d our Novice Women’s crew and was pretty intimidated by the Bay. Yet again, WhattaCrew showed me how strong we can be as one in the canoe. That day, we won 1st in our division and 4th overall. I have to thank Nova Hairston for being an amazing Stroker and Tim Cornwell in seat 5 for keeping my head in the game, even when I wanted to cry out there.
Our last NCOCA long distance race of the season was Kula Anela and once again we were rocking Nova in seat 1, Maureen Chapman joined us in seat 2 and Tim back in seat 5. Worrying about a shoulder injury that had me out for 2 weeks, we took the waters and fought our way from a 9th spot up to the front of the pack. Catching up with our two Keiki crews, the three of us raced together on the last stretch cheering each other on. My engine room stepped on the gas and as we rode along the rockwall, we could hear Junior Wright through his trusty megaphone, “6.7mph...7.5mph! Cmon guys get to that 8!”. This is when Ian Doleman, seat 4 whom we call Odin, would call out his power ups, “IT’S TIME TO FEAST WITH THE GODS!” We came in 1st overall and 1st in our division.
After a great sprint and long distance season, the original 6 decided to take on MBX and got serious only about a month before race day. Janet was already training for Pailolo and Cole Smith, my seat 5, was racing in Catalina. We didn’t have many practices together but when we could, we would get together for early morning runs. Again, I had full doubts and had pulled out of the crew when I thought my shoulder injury would hold us back. They wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and gave me the confidence to go out with, “one last big bang!” With word that it would be a beautiful day, swells no bigger than 3ft and 5 mph winds at our back, we took off to Santa Cruz.
We woke up to a foggy, cold morning and at our coaches meeting we heard the conditions were less than desirable. Still being a new steersperson, I had no idea what to expect out there. We got together for one final prayer around John Gieser to keep us safe, bring us home and to HAVE FUN! We loaded up in our va’a and off we went. We must have been the most talkative crew out there, singing sea shanties, making jokes and just grunting changes as if this was just another paddle on the Petaluma river. About 12 miles in, the conditions finally showed themselves, these did NOT feel like 6ft swells. I tried to keep my composure for my crew and had Cole helping me keep my heading using our compass and GPS system. Nick Luciani, the best seat 3 and caller ever, coached our crew and kept their heads in the game through the mess of swells and wind we faced. Able to surf some of the better swells and hip check the ama on other horrible ones, we were going mile by mile just supporting each other. If the canoe was too quiet, someone would try and liven up the paddle to try and remind us as hard as this was, we were out here for the experience.
The fog was pretty high up but still we had no heading except for what our GPS or compass was set to. We had seals and otters popping up left and right, reminding us to laugh and enjoy the paddle. We were alone out there for almost 4 hours, passing a few canoes in the start and twice having support boats give us a better heading but it was spiritual to become one in the wa'a and ocean. Right in the middle, we hit this calm, metallic looking water where the sun was barely peaking through the fog and reflecting along the ocean. It was so quiet and all you heard was the canoe cutting through the water. I felt that the worst was over and we would be able to ride the swells all the way in with no issues at all.
Boy, was I wrong! This was the calm before the storm. At that moment, the waters completely changed, the wind picked up, the sky got darker and the swells grew way bigger than what I expected. It became a total washing machine out there and I could barely control the canoe. I was locked on my left side poking and attempting to save us from huli'ing. They were coming from the left and right just crashing into us with a few wind waves coming into the canoe. They were unpredictable where you would have one small swell followed by a massive one. This is where I had to just go with my gut feeling, remember everything I had learned and trust in myself and my amazing crew. It was like riding a roller-coaster, fun but scary! I had to dig deep to have the confidence to finish this race. With my shoulder injury killing me from fighting the currents from turning us fully around, my back spasms from leaning left and my left ribs being crushed, I had to remember that I had 5 people going through the same pain with me and together we would get through this.
Spotting whales, jellies and a massive fish ball of tuna, we kept on trekking. I definitely had moments of heart attacks out there but finally around 5 miles to go, we finally spot land. Let me tell you, those last 5 miles were HORRIBLE! It was like we weren’t moving closer to the finish at all. I called our last break drill and told my crew to dig deep inside and finish strong. We had about 40 minutes to go if we wanted to beat the record of 3:58 (for co-ed traditional iron division). Around 3 miles from the shore, I heard Jessica Rivas, our seat 2, take over calling without skipping a beat proving that our crew had a bond to communicate with each other without saying a word.
Nothing can describe the feeling you have once you reach the other side. We sat there quietly looking back at what we just accomplished. Exhausted, dehydrated and broken, we dragged ourselves to the beach and just smiled at each other. WhattaCrew survived the crossing. First person I spoke to out of the canoe was my coach, Richie Lambert. Looking shocked, he told us we were the 6th canoe in...I lost it. I couldn’t believe us, a novice crew who started paddling together only a few months before, had done such a feat. We hugged, we cried, we laughed! WhattaCrew was finally on vacation!
Thank you. Thank you to Janet, Jessica, Nick, Ian and Cole for being the best crew. You five have been my rock inside and out of the canoe. I cannot wait to see what the future holds in our paddling career. Thank you to Nicole Sholly and Sue Pearson for all the help and words of wisdom. Thank you to Mike Smith and Gloria Lambert who coached me and gave me the confidence to keep paddling. Thank you to my extended paddling ohana with all your words of encouragement.
We ended up taking 1st place Traditional Coed Iron, 3rd in the Coed Division and 6th out of 28 canoes with a time of 4:02, 4 minutes shy of the record. Who knew that a novice crew of “Mixed Nuts” would rock it out this year. Thank you.
Team Writer Jocelyn Wilson - Sometimes it take the enthusiasm of our newer paddlers to remind us all how fun paddling is. Jocelyn is such a reminder for us all as she has jumped in the last season and half with both feet and fully embraced the paddling experiences. We are grateful for her energy and excitement and love for outrigger paddling. Jocelyn paddles in Northern California and is excited to explore its waterways, bays and beaches.
If you have an idea for Jocelyn to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!