News: Water Wonders: Learn to paddle with base canoe club
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - The crew of Na Koa Lani Outrigger Canoe Club navigated their way into better paddling skills and closer team bonds during a steering clinic held Monday afternoon near the shore of Hale Koa Beach.
The club’s mission is to share the sport of paddling at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, said Paul Anslow, founder of the club and director of safety at Marine Corps Air Station Hawaii. Service members and their families, as well as base employees, are on the team. The club is open to children and adults to recreationally paddle or join the competitive branch of the base club.
“I love the sport of paddling and I want to expose everyone to it,” Anslow said. “The greatest thing is to be out in ocean. Paddling teaches you Hawaiian culture. Whether you are here for three years or 25 years, it’s great to do and there’s an opportunity to do it right here on base.”
Named “Na Koa Lani,” or “sky warrior” in Hawaiian, the competitive branch of the club practices three times a week. This year the group has competed in 20 races, half of them endurance distance contests. Both male and female members competed in the August “Na Pali Challenge” race that spans more than 39 miles, canoeing around Kauai’s coast.
Children as young as 9 years old and paddlers older than 70 have joined since the club formed three years ago. The team currently stands at 58 members, but Anslow said due to deployment schedules and members relocating, the team might have only 80 percent of its members together at any given time.
During the steering clinic at Hale Koa Beach, paddlers learned the basics of how to guide their outrigger canoe by using smart paddle strokes. Cari Goad, a MCB Hawaii resident and regular attendee of the recreational paddling outings, said she learned a lot of new terms and gained confidence from the clinic.
“Hale Koa Beach is a pretty good place to practice because you need to steer through the reefs,” Goad said. “You need to learn the tiny channels, and it’s tougher to do. You need to navigate through whatever open gates between reefs there are.”
Goad began paddling with the recreational branch of the club last year and said she was able to pick up the sport easily without previous experience. She said she’s kept up with outrigger canoe paddling because it’s inexpensive physical exercise in a peaceful setting with great people.
Beginners can start with the recreational paddling and can later decide to join the competitive branch, said Cindy De La Garza, recreation paddle coordinator for Na Koa Lani. The club provides paddles, and sign up for the recreational paddle outings is flexible. The recreational paddlers generally spend 30 minutes paddling out to Coconut Island and snorkel for a short period before traveling back to the base.
“Waters are typically calm and we get to see turtles out there,” De La Garza said. “It’s really beautiful. In the mornings, it’s calm with rainbows. The place is very picturesque. You get a different feel of the bay when you’re in a small boat.”
Next month the racing team will head into practices focusing on competitions, but Anslow said the club is always recruiting new members.
“If you have the desire to paddle, want to get in some good exercise and want to be part of a crew and a team, we’ll help you,” Anslow said.