News: PT at sea: Canoe paddling available to MCB Hawaii units
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - The cool morning water of Hale Koa Beach splashed against the legs of Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay Marines and sailors as they waded into the bay for Hawaiian-style physical training, May 30.
More than 60 participants went canoe paddling with members of Na Koa Lani, a canoe club which was established by Marine Corps Base Hawaii personnel four years ago and includes military and community members.
The early morning began with a safety brief. During the brief, participants who were not comfortable with their swimming abilities were grouped with more experienced paddlers. Club members were steersmen supporting the service members, many of whom were paddling for the first time. They also learned how to handle situations including the canoe flipping over, or “huli,” in Hawaiian.
The unit paddled approximately three miles from Hale Koa Beach to the Sampan Channel and back. Participants raced each other in separate boats. Other service members would wait in the reef area for their turn, and relieve their peers in the canoes as they pulled in. The unit was finished with padding by 8:30 a.m.
“I got a lot of positive feedback,” said Paul Anslow, the director of safety at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, and head coach of Na Koa Lani. “People were excited (and) had fun. They’ve already asked if we could do it every month or every six weeks because they had such a great time doing it.”
Emmanuel Soto, the S-4 chief at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, is a member of Na Koa Lani, and has been canoe paddling for more than a year. The 29-year-old Perth Amboy, N.J., native gave his fellow service members quick lessons in paddling. Soto, who enjoys water sports such as kayaking and snorkeling, heard about the canoe-paddling opportunity through Anslow, and went out on the water for his first paddling session with the club, which turned out to be a learning experience.
“We were (paddling) for about a good 30, 45 minutes and I’m dying, just physically exhausted,” Soto said. “Everyone else in the boat is doing just fine, and I was thinking to myself ‘either I’m really out of shape or these people are in awesome shape.’ I got home and I
went straight to sleep. I was dead tired.”
Soto said he learned that canoe paddling is more about technique than strength, and using strength alone can cause fatigue.
“Paddling possesses everything the Marine Corps wants as far as leadership, teamwork, discipline (and) physical fitness,” Soto said. “It’s got it all, so it’s definitely a great medium to try and reinforce Marine Corps values and leadership traits.”
Brandon Stallworth, an airfield operations clerk at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, described his first experience, which was May 30, as “pretty awesome,” and “a good little workout.” The Detroit native encourages first-time paddlers not to be afraid.
Anslow encourages all units to try canoe paddling. So far, MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 51 and Wounded Warrior Battalion West-Detachment Hawaii have tried paddling for unit PT.
He said he would eventually like to see canoe paddling in the Commanding Officer’s Fitness Series. The annual series features various races for base personnel and in some cases, the public. Anslow said canoe paddling promotes teamwork, competition and the opportunity to try a new experience.
“Everybody’s gone out and ran three miles or done the obstacle course or standard unit PT,” Anslow said. “But this gives them an opportunity, especially here in Hawaii, to do something they may never do again or
may never have done before.”
Units can generally expect PT canoe sessions to last about an hour and a half. Service members participating are advised to bring sunscreen, water and shoes. Shoes are important, according to Anslow, because as
paddlers launch the canoe at Hale Koa Beach, they will be walking on a coral reef, which can injure bare feet.
Soto advises eating a healthy meal prior to paddling, and also bringing along a snack like a protein bar, for longer canoe rides. Participants should minimize the amount of personal belongings they bring, as they will not be monitored at the beach.
There are currently seven boats available for units to use, one owned by Marine Corps Community Services, one owned by Wounded Warrior Battalion West-Detachment Hawaii and five belonging to Na Koa Lani.
Units interested in paddling for PT should call Anslow at 257-1626, at least two weeks in advance.
“Be prepared to have a good workout and a lot of fun,” Anslow said.