Teenage paddlers crossing the Kaiwi Channel is not unheard of, but it is not common.
Six La Pietra girls — Ruby Shuman, Emma Daniel, Arianna Radona, Kualii Copp, Carly Yamada and Anela Donachie — competed in Na Wahine O Ke Kai on Sept. 24. The experience helped them prepare for Pac-Five’s upcoming paddling season.
“It was amazing crossing the channel,” said Shuman, who paddled for Hui Nalu in the same crew as Daniel. “It was such a good bonding experience. We were super motiviated to do it and we got together and did it. Since I was 12, it was always in the back of mind to paddle in Na Wahine O Ke Kai. I never knew I would do it at age 16.
“All I remember is seeing the island (Oahu) for so long while you’re out there. You never get there, it seems like, and you think you’re getting close. After the second hour, it was like, ‘Oh God, how long is this really going to take. After the third hour, we gained a burst of energy and got back into it again. Most of the way, you can’t see anyone else and you don’t know where you are, but when you get close to Oahu, you see the other crews and you start to get excited about finishing.”
Shuman, senior, and Daniel, a sophomore, and their Hui Nalu crew placed second out of seven in their division and 29th out of 59 overall.
Copp, a junior, was part of Kamehameha Canoe Club’s Red crew along with fellow juniors Radona and Yamada. That crew placed third out of seven in their division and 30th out of 59 overall.
“What drove me is my aunties were (among) the first women to ever cross this channel,” Copp said. “They (Mauliola Aspelund, Carleen Ornellas and Haunani Olds) are very experienced waterwomen. They all got together and made this race what it is. I told myself that if they can do it, I can do it, too.”
Like Shuman, Copp remembers seeing Diamond Head not changing in size when it should have been getting bigger.
“About three hours in, it looked like it was finally getting bigger,” she said. “I was excited because I thought we were getting closer, but then, two hours later, we were all getting impatient and it took a toll on our minds.
“Finally, we finished. I’ll always remember as soon as we finished we all turned around and looked at each other and started sobbing. We were so happy that it was over and kind of sad that it was over. It was such a good bonding moment for us.”
Donachie, another La Pietra junior who paddles for Pac-Five, was part of the Kamehameha Canoe Club’s Gold crew that finished sixth out of seven in the division and 56h out of 59 overall.