Cali Paddler is stoked to have Ruthie Reyes once again share her paddling experiences with us all. She was recently a part of the awesome under 18 outrigger team that traveled from NorCal to SoCal to race in Oceanside at the Annual PaoPao Outrigger Race. As always, paddlers tell it best! Enjoy. -CP
Being the second change race in Southern California with the Junior Norcal crew challenged me as a steerswoman. I was in unfamiliar waters and had to read the water to feel how the canoe was going to react. Every race has its own meaning; they all won't be the same. They each have their own special moments. A couple hours leading up to the race, there was the calling of the conch shell, four times. Oceanside Canoe Club had a open chant - what a great way to connect all the paddlers, to guide all through a safe journey as we take on PaoPao.
We were heading out of the jetty, and all the canoes were lining up waiting to head outside to the start. I set our canoe in the line. A moment I cherish before every race is looking to my left and right, seeing all the unlimited and spec canoes on the start line and every paddler ready to bring their “A” game - we are all here for the same reason.
The horn had blown and we were off! Canoes were running, making their line, running right behind us and next to us. A couple of minutes in, the adrenaline settled down and the canoe was gliding through the water. The pack started separating and we were running mid pack, taking advantages of canoes right in front of us. We were all planting the blade in front and pulling back and just running with the canoe.
I hear a canoe creeping up. I look to my right and the Junior Lanakila crew with Josh [Lanakila Keiki coach] steering. As the Norcal Jrs noticed, they knew what they had to do. Were they going to pass or were we? As we did our hard changes, they responded back. Oh man, those Keiki charged! Their canoe was running so great! All I could do was smile, because that is the future generation of paddling to see Lanakila Keiki and any other Keiki out on the water. Right when we pulled up ahead of the Lanakila Keiki, I looked to my side and see another Lanakila crew! It was the Junior girls with Jillian steering. Since they were our competition for our division, the girls and I knew it was time to step it up and do something. Running just right behind them, they were making their first change. Soon after, Coach George called out seats. Our first change was coming up.
Once we had our first change, the girls kept the canoe running. Uncle George asked if I saw the Dorito, which was the first turn buoy. I did not fully understand what he said. I heard "do you want a Dorito?" I said no. When I looked on the left side in front, I realized that he said Dorito as in the buoy! Lol! Just before the first turn, we were in front of Lanakila. Just before I had my first change, the Lanakila girls passed in front. After 13.5 miles steering, I jumped into the water and Kira took over steering. The water never felt so good. I had my first change back into the canoe and then once more on the chase boat until it was the last change of the race. It is so crazy how fast a race can go when everyone is just in the moment and having fun. After the last change, we gave the last of what we all had inside of us and left it out on the water. We made our last turn around the seal buoy, and headed back into the harbor as they sounded the horn.
We saw the Junior Dana Point girls waiting to congratulate the junior crews. As we ran next to them, I thought about how the love everyone has in the paddling community is so special and humbling.
I ended the day spending time with Rell from Dana Point, Jillian from Lanakila, and the rest of the NorCal Juniors while the boys raced.
I can't wait for next season to get down south more. I am looking forward to all the adventures we all have ahead of us. The paddling journey is endless. Great things happen when they are most unexpected.
Thank you to Michael Howard, Amy Marshall, David bell, Chris and Cody Silvester for your photos to help paint the picture to wonderfully.