OC1 Essay Content Entry - Jeannette Darrow

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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Jeannette Darrow, California

Sand. There is always so much sand. On the floor of the car, on the bathroom floor, in the washing machine. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

On any given weekend in 2016, and every year before that, you would find me sleeping in until 11:00 a.m. (The husband insists it was later.) Eventually I would drag myself from bed, take a shower, and head to lunch with the husband, eating so much that my afternoon essentially consisted of sitting in front of the television in a food coma until it was time for dinner. Then, after going through the usual half hour discussion of "where do you want to eat," out we would head again to gorge on deliciously unhealthy food.

After a surgery in late 2016, and reaching my highest weight ever during recovery, I got a Garmin watch for Christmas, and decided it was time to get serious about working out and getting healthy. I had never been an athlete. I had dabbled with yoga and gym workouts over the years, but nothing ever "stuck" long enough for me to lose any meaningful amount of weight, let alone keep it off. I got a membership to the Newport Aquatic Center and loved that I could grab a standup paddleboard (and someone would even carry it to the water's edge!) and go as far as I wanted. Or not very far, depending on how I felt. I signed up for a standup paddleboard yoga class through Meetup, which never materialized; but in February 2017, I got a message about a dragonboat meetup. I'm a midwest girl from Michigan, and I wouldn't know a dragonboat from a dragboat. I was curious, and decided to see what it was all about.

The morning of the meetup it was raining and gloomy. The team captain decided a circuit workout in the gym was in order. I went along, following mostly 50-60 year old women through a series of weight machine and dumbbell exercises. When we were done, I chatted with some of the women and they pointed out someone in the corner doing planks. "She's 89," they told me. Unbelievable, I thought. This paddling thing must be the fountain of youth. When they told me that they have wine and cheese after Tuesday evening practices in the spring, I thought, these are my people.

I enjoyed my Sunday mornings (did I mention I'm not a morning person?) paddling with the dragonboat team, and I would hear team members talking about "going out with Danny's group" after practice. Eventually someone asked me if I was "going out with Danny" and I confessed I had no clue what that meant. "Danny leads a recreational outrigger canoe paddling group," they told me. A-ha! Now, I know what an outrigger canoe is. I had had a painting of a beach scene with an outrigger canoe hanging in my living room for more than a decade. It was all falling into place. On my first excursion with the infamous "Danny's group," we paddled to the ocean, chased whales (!), and stopped at a paddler's boat in the harbor to see if he had any beers in the fridge. After realizing the fridge had broken and the beers were warm, we were gifted with the sight of a waiter from the yacht club carrying a tray of beer cups to our canoes. Outrigger paddlers... THESE are my people too!

Two weeks and two more dragonboat and outrigger paddles later, I overheard a conversation about competitive outrigger canoe racing. I heard the name of a local outrigger club, and that they paddled three days a week. What?! You can do this more than once a week? I went right home and looked them up. The last day to join the novice season was the next day. It was meant to be.

Now it’s June 2019. I just raced the short AND the long course of an outrigger race in Long Beach. I got up at 5:00 a.m. On a weekend. Did I eat a healthy meal after paddling over 22 miles? Nope! But I got up at 5:00 a.m. again the next day and went back out and paddled another 14 miles. I am healthier, happier, and cannot foresee a time where my house and car won't be covered with a thin layer of sand.

My husband and I won’t have it any other way.

Part 2:

I joined Imua Outrigger Canoe Club in April 2017 and switched over to Newport Aquatic Center in 2019, which has a very competitive women's team. The husband joined Newport Aquatic Center's men's team as a novice this year. I would love an OC1 to call my own (ok, ok, the husband can share) so that I can continue to improve and get more experience in open ocean conditions. I never knew I was athletically-inclined and have never been involved in sports in my life. But I want to be good at this. I want to be the best I can possibly be at this! Given that I've only been paddling two years, and most of the women on the team have been paddling 10, 15, and even 40+ years, it is extremely hard to compete without having the benefit of individual practice on an OC1. It seems that almost every woman on the team has her own, so I'm also at a significant disadvantage trying to beg for and borrow an OC1 I'm not familiar with to participate in team "time trials." I'd also love to be able to do winter series OC1 races to keep the paddling going all year long, and would like to do the Wild Buffalo Relay again (Two Harbors Catalina to Newport Beach, 42 miles), but this time as a 2-person OC1 relay instead of a 4-person OC2 relay. Preparing for this event without an OC1 of my own would be virtually impossible.

I intend to "share the stoke" as much as possible - paddling with teammates and friends and bringing curious people like I was just two years ago into the sport. I try to share my paddling experiences wherever I can through my Instagram account (@paddleaddikt) and to my Facebook friends (516 friends versus the 150 I had in my "pre-paddling" life).

If the time should come to part with my gifted OC1, I would be happy to re-gift it to someone who shares as much passion and love for the sport (and paddling in general) as I do. I would hope that that person would also cry as many tears of happiness as I did while writing his or her "how paddling changed my life" essay.


Jeannette Darrow grew up in Michigan and moved to California in 1998.  She paddles with Newport Aquatic Center's outrigger and dragonboat teams and enjoys all things paddling, including standup paddleboarding, kayaking, and outrigger canoe surfing. When she's not on the water, she enjoys... just kidding, she's always on the water.  Since she began paddling in 2017, Jeannette has held an annual "guess how many miles I paddled this year" contest. In 2017, she paddled 1,224 miles in various crafts and more than 1,708 in 2018. She lives in Newport Beach with her wonderful husband and 20-year-old cat, Peeps.


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