OC1 Essay Content Entry - Cathie Bown

The following submission was made as an entry to win a OC1 from an amazingly generous donor, who wanted to see the canoe truly enjoyed, rather than turn a profit. Entrants were asked to submit an essay answering the following:

  • Part 1: “Describe how paddling has changed your life.”
  • Part 2: “How do you plan to use this canoe, and perhaps someday pass it along?”

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Cathy Bown, California

I started paddling the summer of 2016; I was pretty broken, I was mending from my 3rd attack of cancer(3rd time over 15 years), was nursing a broken heart and pretty much just felt lost.  Lucky for me fate was on my side as I had just moved into a new neighborhood with a neighbor who kept talking to me about outrigger canoe paddling and that I need to come try it!

Quite honestly I didn't even know what an outrigger was.  Finally after a month I showed up on the beach at Lake Natoma to see what all the hype was about.  Everyone was very welcoming and excited to see someone new.  After going over basics with the novice coach(who is now a dear friend) I got into the canoe.  It was an instant addiction.  I've always loved the water but was never quite connected with a water sport.  I played basketball in my younger years so the athlete was in there somewhere and it got a taste of something it had been longing for.  Basically my first paddle kicked my *ss and I loved it!!  The cadence of the stroke, the mental focus, and camaraderie were things I noticed first.  I thought to myself "I don't need therapy, I need this!!!".  I was six months out of abdominal surgery so my core was pretty weak, but my endurance and determination were strong.  I kept showing up for practices, meeting new people, and trying different seats; I wanted to learn all that I could.  The next thing I knew I was stroking my first race- Alcatraz. Ohhhhhh! This is an ocean sport!  I will never forget being at the start line, turning around and looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge; 6 mos ago I was in a hospital just four blocks away.  The start of the race was thrilling and I instantly knew I was about to be challenged physically as well as mentally. The thing I have realized about paddling is that although it is critical to work as a team; you are also alone in your thoughts and you must keep your mind strong and focused so you are an effective teammate. Paddling helped me to believe in myself again. We reach the finish line; It was so cool to see all the different teams, the tents, the food, seeing everyone come together to support each other was fantastic.  I was happy just to have the privilege to be a part of it but we ended up getting first place in the novice course!  Needless to say that is one worshiped beer mug!  It was at that moment I knew I was into something that was greater than cancer, that was more powerful than heart break.  I fell in love with outrigger paddling, I was home.

Pretty soon, my core grew stronger and I learned how to use it effectively, I started to realize what "the catch" meant, I learned how to engage my legs, I started to crave the sound the paddle makes when it enters the water, I slowly learned not to drop my top arm, speed up my return. keep my head up. I kept learning and I kept practicing.

My broken heart began to heal as it was filled with encouragement, excitement, adventure, support and love from my new teammates; my Ohana.  I have met people whom I may have never met who are now friends for life.

My first summer I did the short courses,  My first long course was in Santa Cruz and the boat was filled with friends; we did it together.  As I saw the final buoy my eyes filled with tears, tears of accomplishment and pride and yes a little pain.  Finishing a long distance race was an exhausting yet exhilarating experience. I still get emotional after I finish races; a feeling a cancer survivor knows well - gratitude. Gratitude to be healthy and have the ability to participate in this great sport a lake town knows little about.   As  I continue to do bigger races, I find myself needing more time on the water and I crave the freedom to paddle on different water when I choose to.  I was encouraged to get an OC1 but unfortunately my current finances aren't as ambitious as my dreams.   

I would use this OC1 to train, to finally be able to join my friends who have OC1s and potentially race OC1 races.  I would care for it as if it were my child!

I definitely believe in the power of paying it forward and if I ever wanted to part with this lovely craft  I would donate it with honor and request the same thing be done if that person parted with it.  Even before that I would make sure to pay it forward in another way to keep the positivity going.

Thank you generous donor and Cali Paddler for such a wonderful offer. Thank you for reading my story.

Mahalo, Cathie Bown


I have a degree in Horticulture, I work for a pool and landscape construction company in Sacramento.  I've been divorced for 8 years and raised two stepsons and have a little sister from the big brother big sister program.  I enjoy paddling, hiking, animals, the ocean, and good friends. I currently live in Folsom with two one-year old cats.


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  • Melissa Ulrich - June 26, 2019

    This is a very inspiring and beautiful journey! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

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