OC1 Essay Contest Entry - Jessica Struble

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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Jessica Struble, California

A Canoe is Worth a Thousand Words

I am meant to describe how paddling has changed my life, and I intend to do that. It may seem strange, but I have never picked up a paddle in my life and somehow I find myself describing it’s life-altering effects. I find that the strongest life alterations are those made through the lives of loved ones. If I am to accurately describe how my life been changed by the sport, I will have to start at my own birth.

When my mother was very young, she fell in love with her high school sweetheart. They were wed, they led a peaceful white-picket life, and they introduced myself and my brother to this beautiful planet. They were married only until I was two years old, and prior to that my older brother was plagued by many sleepless nights as he lay awake listening to their desperate bickering. When I was too young to remember, both found new partners. My dad quickly fell in love with a wonderful woman whom he has retired with, and my mother experimented with her fair share of women. My mother is a wonderful person, but she is insecure, and she is lost. She often feels powerless, and her features are often arranged into a sad, regretful smile. I can see it when she watches me succeed, or when she sees my dad with the love of his life, or when she fails in her own adventures. She has learned to accept powerlessness

That is until she found herself in a canoe. When her current partner Barbie moved here from her tropical Hawaiian paradise, she convinced my mom to have a taste of what Hawaiians do for fun. They joined an outrigger club together and, much like Cinderella and her shoe, the paddle fit. My mom’s whole persona changed, her eyes were brighter than the sun reflecting on the ocean, her arms stronger than any oncoming wave, her skin salty with sweat. And finally--I’m lucky to have been able to see it--she found her power.

She took control of her life in much the same way she could take control of the boat. All of a sudden, she found herself leading, encouraging, pushing toward a better horizon. Her paddle was the key to open countless doors of opportunity. The salty air seemed fresh to her, and the dolphins and whales were better friends than she had ever had. She had described this competition to me in passing, and I have taken it upon myself, with her permission, to bring a little more light to her future. She paddles recreationally, but sometimes it is just not enough. She would paddle in rain or shine, in murky or clear waters, she would slice her way across a frozen lake if it meant she could paddle. The power she finds in paddling is medicinal to her joy. Her joy, in turn, is my joy. I live with her, and I have supported her through the ups and downs of her beautifully flawed life. So here I am, describing to you how amazingly strong the influence of paddling has been, and how it has strengthened my mother to the core. It taught her that when her canoe or her world is turned upside down, she can always get back in again with a little help. I am merely a bystander to this magical growth, but I now realize that I can make a difference in her life

This canoe, if I win it, will go to my unsuspecting mother.  If it ever comes time to part with the canoe, I will personally make sure that the new owner can see the magic as well as my mom could. She does not know that I plan on giving her the canoe, and I believe that the surprise will not only inspire her to focus on her personal growth, but also to share in her joy. She had always wanted to paddle with family, and now she would have that opportunity. They plan on retiring near a river or lake, that is my mom’s only wish in terms of location. So, with this constant water access, we will be able to take the whole family out. My mom, myself, Barbie, my grandma, my cousins, aunts and uncles, and even my dog buddy. He’s got his own life vest so we could even go swimming in the lake together. We are a water play family, and we would all love the opportunity to paddle together, my mom most of all. It would warm her heart to see me, her daughter, paddling the same boat, experiencing the same beauty which had changed her life.

I would like to take a moment an thank you for this opportunity. I think that this is a wonderful thing you are doing and I sincerely hope that, if it does not go to us, it will go to someone who can find the magic in it as well. We certainly have.


My name is Jessica Struble, I am a seventeen-year-old recent high school graduate who has an aspiration of being an author. My mother is Trisha Struble, and she is a member of the Makaha outrigger club in San Pedro, CA.


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  • Melissa Ulrich - June 26, 2019

    This is such a beautiful essay and gift, Jessica, for your mom! What a blessing you have each other. I am very touched by this essay and your ability to see the things in life that matter, truly. May you and your family continue to find the magic and joy in life. x

  • Erica Luke - June 23, 2019


  • Sheryl Bernasconi - June 23, 2019

    Wow.. what an awesome, powerful essay. Kudos to Jessica & the Mom who raised her. Wow again..

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