Animal Rescuer Takes To Paddling

David Schofield (left) helps remove a seal pup from its abusive mother / Photo courtesy NOAA permit 932-1905

You’ve seen him on news reports responding to marine mammals in distress, the face and voice who shares stories of our beloved ocean creatures. In his 22 years working with marine mammals, David Schofield has experienced the joys of releasing once-unhealthy animals back to the wild after rehabilitation efforts.

“I also have had the heartache of losing animals under care that were too sick or injured to survive,” says the marine response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He adds those animals died, “in many cases, due to what humans have done to the environment.”

It is through these experiences that he’s learned to respect all marine life and appreciate the health of our ocean. The experiences also have opened his heart to other gifts the ocean has to offer including his newest passion, canoe paddling.

Schofield started paddling about a year ago. He says his interest was triggered by his desire to learn more about the Hawaiian culture after reading about the Hawaiian renaissance. He understood the sport is a symbol of Hawaiian culture, but knew there was more to the state’s official team sport. He turned to kupuna at Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club in Windward Oahu for answers.

“Since moving to Hawaii I have tried to learn about Hawaiian culture and the sensitivities as a visitor that I need to understand,” he says. “The elders of the club have taught me to respect those Hawaiian voyagers who came before us, and to remember that what we now know about and use every day in paddling originates from them.”

Schofield says in the short time he’s been paddling, he’s learned much about the sport’s rich history and the importance of teamwork.

“The connection to the ocean only strengthens my drive to help protect marine mammals,” he says. “It definitely relieves the stress and reconnects me to the ocean and why I do what I do, for the animals and the ocean outside of the politics.”

Kailua Beach is a long way from the cornfields of Pennsylvania. A self-proclaimed mid-Atlantic boy who was born and raised in New Jersey, Schofield worked at the National Aquarium in Baltimore for 16 years helping sick and injured marine mammals that were stranded along the mid-Atlantic seaboard. He eventually found his way to the friendly shores of Hawaii.

“One of my coaches reminds me when I first called to inquire about membership and practice schedules that one of my questions to him was ‘Is it OK that I join the club if I am haole?'” says Schofield. “He laughed and said anyone who has the heart and drive for paddling can participate.”

Schofield admits he thought the sport was only for those with lineage to ancient voyagers, families of watermen or ali’i. He quickly learned the sport is open to all and understands why thousands are passionate about what it offers.

“Lining up for the race is a rush,” he says. “I get the adrenaline rush you would get from any high-impact sport, or one that I might get before getting into a pool with a sick and angry dolphin that does not always know when we are trying to help it.”

Schofield’s short-term goals are to stay healthy, build strength and stamina, improve his stroke and continue to have fun. By next October he hopes to cross the Kaiwi Channel with his mates at Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club in Kailua.

“I chose Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club because of the friendly and inclusive nature of the club, which has been around since 1976 and has the motto of ‘everybody paddles,'” he says with pride.

“I like the small-club feel, even though we are small, we are scrappy, with people who truly value the sport, and sometimes we pull out the surprise in races.”

Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club is always looking for new member paddlers and volunteers. If you’re interested in learning more about the Windward Oahu club, log on to

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