Sunday, August 17, 2008

Duke Kahanamoku Race 08: Swamped

Our canoe swamped, half way through the race, and we had to be rescued at sea. Ten more minutes and we would have made the point and been in calmer waters.

But honestly, we were doomed before that. You could feel it there, at the end. In retrospect it almost seems inevitable.

5:00 am: Wake up time. I try to eat, but I'm too nervous & I can't even keep down a cup of coffee. I check the weather reports. There's a southwest swell, strong trades, and a tropical depression off the Big Island. It sounds like it could be messy. I have the usual why do I do this? reaction I always have on race days.

8:00 am: Kailua. The canoe is set and we're ready to go. Nothing to do now but wait. And wait. The race is delayed. We wait. The winds pick up. We still wait. I take a nap in the shadow of the boat.

10:00 am: Holo's Escort Boat. I take the first leg with Eli and Hala in the escort boat. Mark and Rob are on hand to help Roz out. The race won't start until 10:10. The seas are really big. I have the patch on, and hope that's enough. There are 47 canoes in the race. The start, I hear, is a mess. Too many va`a crammed too close together. At least one canoe hulis early.

We wait in the escort boat for Kamehameha to appear. And there we are, a few boats from the end. Damn. I'm not sure how we're so far behind already.

First Run: Waimanalo. Seat 3. I jump in just outside Bellow's Beach. Victor is stroking, and Alex is steering. He's never been in waves that big, but he handles them like a pro. The ama is popping constantly, but we catch it each time. We make good time, and pass some other boats. Our second crew isn't as quick, but we hold our place in the lineup. I can feel the adrenalin coursing through me like ecstacy, and I love these guys in our boat with all my heart.

Second Run: Makapu`u. Seat 3. This was the roughest part in both races last year. This year it was challenging, but it was actually far rougher before this. We're battling with Outrigger and Imua through the channel. We pass Beachboys on the inside, and that feels good. I feel strong, and am not ready to change when I 'm called. Funny how this feels so much less tiring than practice.

Escort Boat: We do a change just past the channel. Alex comes in, and Rod takes over steering. The three canoes are right on top of the rocks, and at one point we collide with Imua. I'm glad I'm in the escort boat for this; it looks scary as hell. I start to get a bit nauseous on the escort boat from being tossed around, and hope that I don't get seasick.

Third Run: Alan Davis. Seat 4. The waves are behind us, and we catch a few runs at the beginning. I had to rock and roll it into the boat from the water - a swell came just as the boat was approaching us, and I had to dive up (not sure how I did that) and swing off the `iaku like a little Chinese gymnast. I'm not sure how I did that either, but I land in the boat. But I feel light headed. We're not running cleanly, and I so don't want to get sea sick but I just can't shake it. I try not to focus too much on the future. Just make it past this, is all I'm thinking. Focus on technique, and don't pass out.

And then on the first change we huli --- outside Hanauma Bay, at almost the exact spot we did last year. The other guys hadn't even made it to the escort boat yet. I'm convinced it was too much water in the canoe. The waves were coming from the side, and the water in the boat sloshed up and put a few extra hundred pounds of force on the downwind side. Over we went. I pop out ok, but Phil seems to be stuck underwater. I can see his hand struggling to free himself, and he finally makes it.

We flip the boat up quickly, and Rudy and I try to bail. Water is coming in fast, but eventually we gett enough out to continue racing. We're all scattered. Phil looks bad, and is still in the water. I dive in and he takes my seat.

So I'm back on the escort boat, earlier than I thought I would be. We let the canoe run another fifteen or twenty minutes, and then Lance and I get back in the water and prep for our change.

Fourth Run: China Walls, Seat 3. I get in the boat, and things are not good at all. You could just feel it. Victor has slown his pace down a lot, but Hala in 2 is having trouble keeping up. I'm greatful for the slower pace, because I'm still a bit light. Behind me Lance is pulling strong. Rod is steering. We seem to be close to the rocks, closer than I like, and we're mostly paddling on the left trying to stop us from flipping and then fuck fuck fuck we're upside down and in the water again.

We get the boat up, but it's fucked. Big waves poinding against the cliff, and we can barely hear the person next to us. OK, we're all ok so far. We right the boat. Victor gets in and tries to paddle us out. I jump in and try to paddle from five. Lance is bailing, and the other guys seems like they're in a bit of a daze. Phil's shoulder is hurt, and he's cramping. Water keeps coming in. The canvas is broke where I am, and it won't close in seat six either, and every wave dumps water in the boat and it's faster than we can bail and we're not going anywhere with the paddling and then it's too late, not that we even had a chance. The boat is swamped. The gunnels are underwater. We can't get out.

Holo tosses us a rope. It gets tangled in the canoe. I can't hear Roz or Holo, and we have no idea what they're yelling at us to do. And I am so tired from hanging on, and I go under every other wave, and it looks like everyone else is struggle also. We try to tow the boat a bit, but the back rim, where the rope was tied to on Holo's boat, comes ripping off.

I don't know how long we were out there. No one had any strength left. I'm burned, I swallowed so much water - it was rough. Lance and I swim to a fishing boat that was nearby; Phil is cramping and can't let go of the canoe. But even if we had experience and technique down, our canvas was torn up and we were taking on water.

We all survived. We stuck together. That's the key. We're still a team. We had beers and barbecue after and processed it and found a few things to laugh about, amid all the drama.

But I'm gonna have some scary dreams tonight.

*************************

Monday: I am so sore and beaten up today. I slept well, though!

The results are in. I thought that 46 canoes started off from Kailua; only 38 finished the race. We saw at least one with a broken iaku, and had heard that another boat had gotten caught on the reef outside Diamond Head.

Lanikai finished first with 2:58.42, followed by Outrigger with 3:04.29. Healani, with Jake, Romos, and Aweau, finished at No. 22 with 3:35.33. Of the canoes we were battling with at the channel, Outrigger 55s pulled out ahead to finish at No. 28 with 3:45.23, and Imua came in at No. 34 with 3:57:14.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

tough luck there at the race, sounds like you needed an experienced steersperson in the rough seas, its amazing how much of a difference that could make ... good luck to you and your club with the rest of your season

Michael C said...

Thanks. Funny part is, we made it through the rough part!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Great 'blow by blow' description! I paddled with the Outrigger 55's (we are actually 60's but there was no classification for 60's in this race). I am having 'flash-backs' after reading your description of your experiences because we flipped just before Rabbit Island. We were able to right it and keep going but going around Makapu'u was 'hairy' and we went inside the rock! Overall, a fun event...thank you for your blog!
Glenn P.

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Anonymous said...

Great 'blow by blow' description! I paddled with the Outrigger 55's (we are actually 60's but there was no classification for 60's in this race). I am having 'flash-backs' after reading your description of your experiences because we flipped just before Rabbit Island. We were able to right it and keep going but going around Makapu'u was 'hairy' and we went inside the rock! Overall, a fun event...thank you for your blog!
Glenn P.

Michael C said...

We saw you guys go inside the rock - that was intense to watch. It showed that you all had been together a long time to pull that off!

Anonymous said...

Kanaktion said...

Awesome brah, It appeared that though things didn't work out well with regards to the race, your crew kept tight and were able to laugh about it later. Keeping that Aloha spirit & crew integrity is a big part of our sport.
Keep up the good work brah, plenty Aloha to you, your crew and your club Ohana, No worry about not finishing next time U going. Just gotta make sure the Aloha is there.

BeeCool
Kanaktion