Catalina – the big picture


Rather than explaining my phenomenal experience at the US
Championships Catalina Crossing, over and over again, here is a
quick synopsis of My experience this weekend. If you’ll notice, I
also titled this “The big picture”. I really think that this
international race has Opened my eyes to the true nature, culture
and excitement of the sport.

The local races are fun but they are only a drop in the pool
compared to the huge oceans of international races, and this average
sized in perspective.

Imagine taking a ferry ride on a fast moving Catamaran looking boat
across the ocean, following a similar course to the one you would be
racing the next day. Imagine blue skies, 27 degree temperatures and
an empty horizon until you see Catalina Island. Imagine palm trees,
green villas, small cottages lining the streets, no cars, just
commuter golf carts (like a little resort town) everywhere.

Imagine sun tanned bodies, a slow relaxed atmosphere and beautiful
clear water. Then you walk up to COCC, Catalina Outrigger Canoe
Club, with a huge backyard/ park as a backdrop with tents lining the
green grass like a city and a big patio area with a big bar and
clubhouse with people sun bathing and drinking colourful drinks with

Then you look to the beach and see row upon row of 6-man canoes
liningthe beach, with huge Samoan, Californian, Tahitian and
Hawaiian bruddas everywhere. Beautiful coconut tans everywhere, (Wahines) women with
Sarongs and Bikini’s, all strong and beautiful female paddlers
getting ready for a night of drinking and partying cause they just
paddled over from Newport beach 47KMs into the horizon.

Imagine the grin on my face as we prepare our own Bradley (the boat
we would race in) for the race the next day. Double check, triple
check the rigging, strap down the bailers, duct tape the
seams…everyone else doing the same thing.

Race day, the nerves are running wild, so our coach boat a good sized
speed boat with plenty of space for chilling out turns on the music,
how fitting that it would be “The Beach Boys…I wish they all could
be California girls…”

Imagine the sight from the ocean, with 46 crews lining the front of
Avalon, the resort town we will depart from. 28 degrees today, with
Blue skies. Team California is a crew with the biggest guys I have
ever seen. Huge Rippling muscles, gigantic reach and incredible
catch when they pull. Then in awe I get a glimpse of a team wearing
all black mesh with Excel logos on their shirts…its team Hawaii/
New Zealand, the number 1 crew in the world, with Karel Tresnick (#1
paddler in the world) steering. Incredible seeing them on the water,
timing, technique, catch, exits…like buttahhh. And for fun there
is even a canoe with only four guys, but two amas, one on each
side and outboard motor and a big sail…crazy fun!!!

I won’t go too much into the race as this would take forever, but
here are some of the high lights…there was a false start that
lasted about 1km before the boats were ordered to stop, way too much
bravado and testosterone on the water…but that’s how it goes.

From what I understand the lead pack was racing amongst a pod of
whales, how crazy is that, imagine doing a change, with men jumping
into the ocean and others pulling themselves up into a fast moving
canoe and next thing you know a whale surfaces and breaches spitting
out and taking in fresh air…how can I describe how this must feel.

Imagine water turbulence everywhere and canoes riding the wakes of
escort boats as they jockey for better lines and superior positions.

Imagine people straining with every fibre in their body to get the
canoe moving as fast as it can before they make the next change.

magine support helicopters flying overhead to watch for “men in grey
suits”…that’s Sharks for those who don’t know. Catalina Island is
famous for having the biggest shark population in the world.

Imagine the finish of the race, weaving through New port beach break
water, passing leisure boats, yachts and other recreational craft as
we race to the finish. Imagine all the tired faces, the exhaustion,
the elation and big grins when we finally cross the finish line.
Crowds everywhere screaming “great job False Creek, well done!!!

Then imagine the sense of camaraderie that occurs as guys from
differentclubs help you get out of the water, and trailer your boat.
Imagine all the stories we share about the race, can you see the
grins on theirfaces as well?

Now we move to the pig roast and awards ceremonies…once again,
coconut tans, bikinis, grass skirts and hats everywhere!!! big
smiles and laughter is contagious as we enjoy the rest of the
festivities. There are Hawaiian dancers honouring the racers with a traditional hula, live Hawaiian singers. Little booths with trinkets and souvenirs to remember the race by. Free beer all night long and friendly faces everywhere.

This was the biggest race I have ever been in. 46 men’s crews, 35
women’screws and 15 mixed crews. one of the people I met told me
that Kona had 130 men’s crews this year and that Molokai’ Hoe would
have 102 crews. I can’t even imagine a line of boats stretching
across the horizon for a km or more. Well, I hope this little email
has left you with the same taste in my mouth…a hunger for more.
More culture, more race, more good times…


Vernon Report

Calgary Canoe Club

Regardless of the actual paddling and the success on the water, and
even in the absence of John Roberts,

Calgary once again WON the party!!!!

Jon A. stepped into the breach and once the Hip Hop started it all
went good. There was not a soul not givin’ it up for the club.

Highlights: Lynda, Chris and Sarah attempting to steal the Mixed
Trophy; Sarah yelling out as Ginter- Jess’ paramour- danced his heart
out for us, “GIVE ME SOME MORE!!!”,

Jacque and Jon A locked into mortal Capoeria Dance Combat with legs
flying into the air, and finally some fool put on a country western
hoe down tune and it all went very, very werid…..

Actual paddling was secondary to the “in the club” action of the
party but included such highlights as a SOLID WIN by the Mixed team
for the gold…

Lotus made several pushes but the mixed team led from the first turn
with only a slight give of ground on the down lake leg. The crossing
to Bird Shit island was Kawaihae- or the fierce sea- as the Hawaiians
would say.

It was where the mixed put on the 1000 meters – Lotus trailed by at
the end.

The basis for the win was Kips’ awesome steering.

AND the fact we had SARAH IN THE BOAT!!! As she was the GOLD MEDAL
WINNER the day before in the womens OC-1 race.

With a pretty good field behind her Sarah, literally walked away. She
actually began to do syncro swim movements in the boat the last

A masked stranger appeared and jumped in a blue boat belonging to Pat
and walked away with SECOND PLACE in the OC-1 and once she finished
she pulled of her disguise and it was Seldom Seen Charlene!!!!

Another Calgary medal!

Pat and the litter were there to celebrate the moment.

Lynda and Jess took a THIRD PLACE in the OC-2 race in the same field,
and Jess made a grab at the winner’s prize bottle of beer, but it was
all good.

In the mens’ race a huge wave wiped out half the field in front of
Jacque…just kidding as Jacque hammered the field for a SECOND in
the Mens’ OC-1 competition.

Shane Martin was spinning his neck like a bobblehead doll and was all
but screaming “where is he? where is he?” as Jacque hunted him down
like a terrier on a rat.

Jon A and Pat took third in the Oc-2 race and were beaten by a couple
of male strippers who got a boat at the last minute- oh sure ‘good
race’ JEFF and MIKE proud of yourselves to beat two old men? Our
mens’ team finished fourth in the Mirage and were proud to say there
wasn’t one fight!

They did the math John R and Jon A weren’t in the boat Hmmm? The
second mixed team wasn’t last and that was a goal they had set. It
was a real learning curve as the wind and waves baptisized the boat
and crew.

There were rumours of mischief as Peter left the boat crawling and
howling in the water at the edge of the lake. Thank you mixed B for
you enthusiasm and the look on all your faces when you hit the
shore!!! Even Barney shed a tear…

Final thoughts: The MIKES’ tore a strip off of Jon and Pat for the
first 2000 meters in the Oc-2 race and then huli’d to make their
third place possible. Thank you children!!!

Pregnant women abounded and so we never feared if a fistfight might
break out at the party as these women were looking good and tough!!!

The Newfoundland Babes gave it up all the way around!!! THANK YOU
AMANDA for the “Berry patch”,

Barry hinself was a saint especially when Jeff and Mike’s friend
STEVE of the grass skirt made a move on his wife!!!!!

MARTIN and DON put three Calgary oc-2s in the top six finishers and
Lydia and Ralph jumped on an OC-2 and discovered what that meant the
next day.

As Tiny Tim said’ God Bless us one and all” John Roberts WE MISSED

Hamilton Island -The 3rd and Final Chapter :

Lori Velesik FCRCC

Day Four, Monday June 16th… The Big Day…

It was a beautiful morning…at the pre-race meeting we discovered
that the course would be the “normal course”…dispelling fears and
rumors that the wind had come up too much and that we would not be
heading out towards Pentacost Island.
Yeehaw…bring it on!!!

After loading our canoe…the very famous “WOODY”, the “start crew”
said good bye to the rest of our team mates and our extraordinary
coach du jour, Rick Nu’u. They headed off to do some silly
interview for Aussie TV and then boarded the escort boat to start the
stressful wait …

In this 42km Change Race, all canoes/teams start on the line….Men,
Women, Mixed, everyone…a total of 85 crews jockeying for
position. It was crazy. The top crews were positioning themselves
for the best lines considering current flow/tides, etc. As you can
imagine…all the men’s crews were ‘puffing up’, staking their
territory and doing their best to be strategic within a super
competitive field. Our strategy was to actually start BEHIND the
line, on the tail of a very strong men’s crew (Mooloolaba Masters)
that we knew had a great steerer…someone who would not screw up and
cause a disaster in front of you and someone you knew was experienced
in this event. This strategy proved to be a good one. Once the gun
went off, we had a clear run with little or no boat interference at
all….quite a relief.

It was a real competitive dash to the first major turning point…the
south end of Dent Island. It was so exciting…boats
everywhere…paddlers calling…the wind, the waves…AWESOME!!!
We were in racing with a bunch on men’s crews when one hulied just in
front of us, a few hundred meters from the point…a subtle
reminder. The water at this point can get really gnarly and the
trick is to stay as close to the rocks as possible…a bit nerve-
wracking with canoes pressed tight to you and rebound swells tossing
you around but we trusted Sue’s steering and we trusted each other
and just went for it…passing a few men crew in the process….WE
BELIEVE !!!!!!

After the point, there were nice little runners and waves to
catch….shift gears from wave bashing to riding. We had a good run
in through here and made great progress against the other teams
around us. We became aware of the other women around us at this
point too…Kai O’pua and Outrigger Australia.

Sue & the her girls, in WOODY, the green boat, “threading the needle”
between rocks and the coast…a tight
fit but a secret back-eddy river that gave us a sweet
ride…definitely worth the risk ! It was a total chute.
All this before the first
change!!! Gotta love it !!!!

Meanwhile, back on the escort boat, the girls were anxious to see how
we had faired. All the escorts go around the top end of Dent Island
at the start of the race…and they wait…the canoes and escorts
converge at the lighthouse and beyond….LET THE GAMES BEGIN !!!!

We were coming up to the lighthouse, the landmark that signals the
first change for the women. The Men’s landmark was farther up but
crews had already reached that point. THERE WERE ESCORT BOATS
EVERYWHERE !!! IT WAS INSANE !!! If the insurance companies had
any idea what was going on out there……..yikes!!!

I have never seen so many close calls and so many tight drops…boats
swooping in behind and in front of canoes, driving straight down
amongst them…craaazzzyyy…never mind complaining about bad boat
wash, it was everywhere…it was escort boat and canoe soup !!!!…I
guess it was that “Aussie Rules” thing again…anything goes!!!!

Rick and our Escort driver, Phil, tried to do our first change but
had trouble getting in deep enough…in and around like 5 other
canoes…the girls jumped in the water but Sue called the change off
b/c we were being pulled off line too much….a good call by Sue and
no harm done…but pretty sketchy for the girls being tossed around
in the water.
We were successful with all our other drops and changes throughout
the race….no “Cling-Ons, no “Starfish”, no misses, no paddles
kicked out, no bad calls, NO WORRIES !!! (Gotta love it when you
have a zero-error race when it counts the most !!!)
All the ladies did fantastic changes, despite practicing only one day
in Mooloolaba!!! (You ladies make me so
Proud !!!)
At the top of Dent we experienced what we had been warned about…the
men will block any women that try to pass them.
One crew gave us grief…bashing boats, veering all over the place
and at one point their ama ended up on some of the ladies in our
canoe!! It wasn’t until Sue…our calm, tiny, mild mannered
helmswoman…ripped an absolute strip off the guy :
“@$J*!#!*!,C*#!!..”HOLD YOUR LINE !!!!! “, that we were able to pass

After passing South Head, we started the long 10km grind upwind
towards Pentacost Island. It started to get big…REAL BIG…open
ocean…big swells with wind chop…stacking up b/c or the outgoing
tide. We were bashing into the troughs and gettin’ big air at the
front. Personally, I had the most fun stroking a 6 man canoe in my
whole paddling career…doing a double shift into the gnarl. It was
just SICK…I just loved it !!!! Our crew seemed to really excel in
the hardest conditions…we were just eatin’ it up….it was so

We were fighting back and forth the whole way with Outrigger
Australia and Kai O’pua…the lead would change many, many times
between the 3 of us before the day was done….fantastic racing.

After Pentacost came time to shift into big time surf mode…away we
went…Outrigger Australia (OA), who were leading took an inside line
and we followed Kai O’pua (KO) on a more direct line back to
Fitzalan Island. A great call made by Rick as we emerged at
Fitzalan Island with about a 5 boat length lead over O.A.. However,
KO had put a big lead on us too.

Coach Rick took Sue out and put Cheryl into steer now as the water
was flattening out and the currents became more apparent. We knew
that it was gonna be a horses race with lots of hard water to deal
with around the top of Hamilton Island. It was a great call. O.A and
us were battling fiercely towards Plum Pudding Island and heading for
the marina and the finish. The 2 crews were side by side, stroke for
stroke for what seemed like and eternity…UNBELIEVABLE….the 2 crew
were fighting so hard that we were both reeling in KO…then to our
amazement, KO missed a change and only had 5 girls in the boat !!!
We finally passed O.A., and maintained a boat length and we were
right on the heels of KO.

Meanwhile, at the finish line….. the amazing Mooloolaba Open Women

were probably already in the bar celebrating their race victory!!!
They won the race 13 minutes ahead of the rest of us…even after
having hulied !!! WOW… big congrats…and well done Mooloolaba !

It was now a 3 horse race for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place.

This was the most incredible racing after 4 hours of strategy,
currents, different lines, wicked tides, surf, lead changes, chop,
slop and full on intensity…non-stop !!!
I have reviewed the video footage I shot from the escort boat ( like
20 times ! ) in an effort to describe the ensuing end battle as
accurately as possible.

KO turned the buoy first heading in the flat water towards the finish
line in the marina. We turned wide right behind them with OA on the
inside, beside and just behind us. OA turned tightest and started
taking an inside line.
We were on the outside with half a boat length on OA and our nose
along side KO when the first boat bumping occurred.

We were slowed down a bit…no big deal…and continued racing with
each canoe regaining space apart from one another. About 20 second
of full out hammering passed with us gaining on KO…our nose was up
at 3 seat when something happened…KO’s nose was suddenly pointing
at 45 degrees toward our escort boat and the 2 boats were in a major
Most of the girls in both canoes were still paddling madly….there
was a lot of excitement, confusion and shouting going on.
Our team was effectively blocked and could do nothing other than stop
OA took quick advantage of the situation and passed both of us on the
inside and went on to win ‘the battle of the day’ and a well earned
2nd overall placing.
KO straightened out in front of us as our girls got the canoe up and
running again. To the amazement of all of us on the escort watching
this unfold, our girls were regaining ground with every stroke on
KO….but, unfortunately, we simply ran out of room, time and luck.
We crossed the line with our nose at KO’s tail in 4th place over all.

Admittedly, there has been a lot of public controversy as to what
happened at the end of our race…a lot of people with opinions…a
lot of people with “their versions” of what happened even though they
were not even there.
One thing is for certain…the girls that were involved and were
there know what happened…this is all that matters….in the heat of
battle, with intense, fantastic racing, stuff happens….we have
accepted our lot and our place in this.

I speak for my team in saying that we have nothing but respect for
the women of Kai O’pua…it is an honor and a privilege to even be
racing with them and simply phenomenal to be at a level to challenge
them. They have been the inspiration for us and our clubs back home
for years…quite simply they have raised the bar for all of us. For
this, we thank them…Mahalo !

Coming to Australia so “scattered”, from all over the Pacific
Northwest and Hawaii, we had absolutely no expectations of how we
would place or stack up. We did not come looking for medals and
money. We came to race our faces off…we came, not to back down,
but to challenge and to race in every race we could…we came to not
wanting to save anything…we wanted to fully experience Hamilton
Island and all that it offers….and we did…..holy cow ( pun
intended) did we ever !!!!!

We are proud to have been contenders for 2nd place in such a

prestigious event. We are proud of all of our results and the fact
that we gave everthing that we had…every stroke, every race, every
day. We graciously thank Outrigger Australia and Kai O’pua for
giving us “the race of our lives”…it was simply fantastic…we will
never forget it.

This truly was an exerience of a lifetime…12 paddle chicks from all
over…gettin’ it together half way around the world…showing
ourselves, and anyone else who cared to notice, what paddling 110%
for each other can do….It can make boats go fast…. and it can
make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

To Cheryl, Tracy, Zoe, Sheila, Kathleen, Justine, Patti, Lori J, Sue,
Linda and Gena…thank you for making a long time idea and dream a
fantastic reality…this adventure was far better that I ever could
have imagined. You are all amazing paddlers and people. You are the
best team mates and friends one could ever have. I, for one, will
never forget.

Mahalo !

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have had writing
it. I am glad to have our trip and the events recorded if for no
other reason than to relive a wonderful trip and experience in the
future. I hope a few of you out there will be inspired to go and
experience some of the great races our sport has to offers.

…..Dare to dream…….dare to do……Thanks for all your interest
and support…..see you on the water !


Thanks to all of our sponsors for helping us look good and paddle
fast !!!!!

Thanks to all of our friends, family, clubs and coaches for making
this possible :