OC1 Essay Content Entry - Melanie Ramos

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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Melanie Ramos, California

 It was March 2012 and I was blissfully clueless about canoes, and amas, and hulis, and the dreaded Novice dance.   But then a friend convinced me that I needed a healthy hobby to balance out my 70 hour a week job.  "Outrigger Paddling" she said.  I said, "Sure, what's that?"

Seven years removed from that fateful conversation and I've paddled by the Statue of Liberty after almost running into the Brooklyn Bridge, raced down the Na'Pali Coast, crossed the finish line three times in the Queen's long distance race, raced around Alcatraz Island, and was privileged enough to earn a Catalina Crossing first place tile.  Through all of that and more, Outrigger for me had morphed from a conundrum, to a challenge, to an addiction, to a passion that after a few years, even after those memorable experiences, was on its way to becoming an obligation or responsibility, the passion was fizzling out.  And I will tell you, it is a difficult task trying to save a passion on your own, fortunately for me, that is when the kids showed up.

Let's step back just a bit ... in late 2014, a group of fellow paddlers and I somehow built a small, scrappy Outrigger club of our very own, Outrigger Hoe Wana'ao.  Besides wanting a good paddling vibe, one of our top goals when we started out was to put together a youth program so we could pass along our love of the ocean and the culture of Hawaiian Outrigger Canoeing.  It took about three years but in 2018 we jump started a junior's crew with some sassy and feisty 14-16 year olds - yes, go figure, we started with high-schoolers.

To my surprise, and I am sure to the surprise of others, padding with those kids has brought the excitement back for a number of us, and rejuvenated the passion in me personally.  How, you may ask, do crazy teenagers make things better?  Well, I realized that you can't covet or scuttle away a passion to keep it safe or to keep it all to yourself.  A true passion for Outrigger, or anything else for that matter, can gain so much more personal meaning when you share it with others.  When all of those experiences and badass stories of near hulis, whales breaching in the middle of races, overcoming odds together with your crew to make your way to the trinket podium, or even just crossing the finish line with all six paddlers still in the canoe, can make an impression on a young mind.  I have realized that our club's collective passion for paddling, and passion for sharing, can inspire those sassy kids to take on new challenges, to be unafraid, and to work together, communicate and have respect for others they encounter along the way.

It took a few years to realize it, but that is how Outrigger Paddling has impacted my life.  And my plans for the canoe, should I be lucky enough?  I hope to make the OC-1 available to our club's juniors both present and future, so they can take on more challenges, gain more confidence and hopefully learn to pass along their passion for Outrigger to those that come behind them.

Melanie Ramos


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