OC1 Essay Contest Entry - Jimmy Luong

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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Jimmy Luong, California

1: Describe how paddling has changed your life.
Surging. Flowing. Gliding. Building. These are the feelings that all paddlers know and what I’ve come to love. Surging as you build momentum to catch the wave. Flowing as you round the peak and start to sync. Gliding as you surf and go faster than you ever thought possible. uilding camaraderie and community with your boat and your team with every stroke.

My paddling journey takes place in two parts: the first as a high schooler looking for something fun to do, and the second as an adult looking for a sense of community.

I discovered paddling on a whim as a teenager. A friend of mine told me about her dragon boat team on the other side of town in Cerritos, California and I checked it out. Little did I know that I would end up joining one of the most competitive U-18 dragon boat teams, known as JAWS, in the United States.

This team took paddling very seriously - the end goal was to win the annual championship at Treasure Island in San Francisco. JAWS introduced me to a world of serious athletes juggling high school responsibilities with intense paddling practices. I became much more disciplined in order to keep up with school, which in hindsight helped me become a better student.

Come race day, the beating of the drum and the stroke counts in perfect unison got my heart pumping. The feeling of surging towards the finish line pushed my body past its limits. The aftermath of celebrating with my team of 40+ paddlers gave me a feeling of intense pride. To this day we still keep up with each other and some of my teammates have even gone on to join the USA national team!

Fast forward many years later and I found myself living and working in the Monterey Peninsula. Despite living in Monterey for many months, I was struggling to find a sense of place. My whole life I had lived in big cities with thousands of things to do and a multitude of distractions.

Then I discovered the Ke Kai O’Uhane Outrigger Canoe Center. I’ve learned so much since joining the team. I learned to appreciate the beautiful water of Monterey Bay, to be grateful that we’re able to return safely to the shore after each padde, to appreciate the hard work of everyone around you, and to embrace ‘ ohana’ or ‘family’. In the past it’s taken a long time for me to feel part of the community around me, especially in a new city, but the family at Ke Kai made me feel supported and welcomed from day one. No matter how stressful or challenging the work day can be, I know that I can find peace on the water with the team.

In sum, paddling has given me the opportunity to become part of communities that make me a better person. Whether it be through intense race sessions in grueling conditions or relaxing recreational paddle outs in calm water, I know that paddling will continue to be an anchor point in my life.

2: How do you plan to use this canoe, and perhaps one day pass it along?
The competitive spirit from my dragon boat racing days still lives strong within me. I’ve had my eyes set on OC-1 races for quite some time now and I want to get out there and compete! My gym workouts have been tweaked to improve my performance on the water. I’m watching videos on YouTube on paddling technique.

I’d also love to have this canoe be available for anyone to use and train with in the Ke Kai Outrigger Canoe Club. The upkeep and maintenance of the OC-1 would be primarily up to me. In the future, I’d like to use my engineering background to research and develop ways to improve outrigger canoe performance and design. Current designs are streamlined and beautiful but I believe there’s always room for exploration!

There are many young students in the Ke Kai club. I can see the canoe serving as a teaching tool to talk about how the canoe shape, weight, and material can affect the drag, buoyancy, and feel in the water. I hope to eventually find a student/parent combo who would one day be the next caretakers of the canoe :)


Hi! My name is Jimmy Luong and I want to thank you so much for your generosity to the paddling community. I’m 25 years young and I’ve been paddling since I was in high school in Long Beach, California. My whole life I’ve been fortunate to live by (or in) the water - in high school I was a competitive swimmer, water polo player, and dragon boat racer. I spent my undergrad years at UC San Diego where I would sneak surf sessions at the beach in between lab sessions at Scripps. Currently, I’m paddling in Monterey with the fantastic Ke Kai O’Uhane Outrigger Canoe Club!


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