Another Paddler In The Family

Kamanu Composites’ winning crew steered by Luke Evslin. Keizo Gates photo

The summer regatta season is officially under way across Hawaii. For the next several months, thousands of canoe paddlers will gather on our beaches and shorelines to take part in Hawaii’s official team sport.

It is a special time of the year when families come together to enjoy competition, culture and tradition. It’s not uncommon to see several generations of paddlers under one tent. In fact, it’s one of the few sports on this planet where grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and son and daughter can all “play” for the same team and share a common goal.

Sunday marked the start of the 2012 Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association regatta season, and this was by far the most rewarding paddling event that I’ve attended. The irony of it all is I didn’t even compete; in fact, I’m not even paddling this season. I was there to watch my daughter Haven.

She is a great athlete, but her focus has always been on competing in horse competitions, not in the ocean. So you can imagine my joy when she texted me two weeks ago and asked if she could paddle for Kailua Canoe Club. After years of “dragging” her and the rest of the family to the beach to cheer on my crew, we were there to cheer on her crew. I’ve never been so pleased and so proud. Finally, I have another paddler in the family.

The healing process is over

I want to send out a heartfelt congratulations to the crew from Kamanu Composites – Luke Evslin, Justin Watts, Mael Carey, Alexander Epling, Alika Kai Guillaume and Makana Denton – for their impressive win in the recent Pa’a ‘Eono Molokai to Oahu Ironman Canoe race.

While the victory was sweet, what made it even more special and emotional was who was in the canoe. This was Evslin’s first crossing of the Kaiwi Channel since suffering life-threatening injuries in the October 2010 Molokai Hoe. Evslin was critically injured during an open ocean change when his crew’s escort boat accidentally ran over him. The vessel’s propeller ripped a series of 5-inch-wide slices to his back, leaving his spine partially exposed.

The healing process was slow and at times grueling, but Evslin’s fighting spirit never faltered. That he was even out there competing at the sport’s highest level is inspiring. But he didn’t just compete – Evslin steered the winning crew in some of the nastiest conditions seen in years.

“Thank you, guys, for the awesome support and encouragement,” he said to his many friends on his Facebook page. “This was a whirlwind of a day and it went 100 percent perfect. Thanks again for the support everyone, especially the amazing and wonderful woman who’s been at my side through it all (his wife Sokchea). It blows my mind. Today the healing process ended.”

Luke, please know you’ve inspired many people beyond the paddling world with your will to live and your drive to make every moment count.

Staying the course at MidWeek

After 27 wonderful years at KHON2, I’ve officially started a new career in public relations and community building with Communications Pacific. My first day on the job was exhilarating and fulfilling, and I’m excited about what’s ahead. I promise to serve our communities with the same integrity and same heart as I did for nearly three decades at KHON2.

Thanks to MidWeek publisher Ron Nagasawa and editor Don Chapman, and my new boss Kitty Lagareta from CommPac, I will continue with my role as an ocean columnist with MidWeek, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve always been humbled to be part of this team, and I look forward to hearing your story ideas of the people and places that make our ocean playground special. Mahalo for your support over the years.