Kaua‘i Ladies Propel Canoe Dynasty

Team Bradley (from left): Shelly Oates Wilding, Andrea Moller, Alana Goo Frazier, Dane Ward, Lauren Bartlett, Kristen Foster, Cherisse Agorastos, Kelly Fey, Noelani Auger and Lori Nakamura

They burst into the winner’s circle six years ago with a convincing victory in the prestigious Na Wahine o Ke Kai – a group of veteran paddlers from different clubs racing under Team Bradley, named after canoe-builder Sonny Bradley.

The winning formula proved to be the right ingredients for a repeat the following year, and then a three-peat. The “D” word was quietly being thrown around.

In 2008, Team Bradley won its fourth straight long-distance world championship, and in ’09 came No. 5. Only one other team, Offshore Canoe Club of California, had won six straight when it dominated the event from 1986 to 1991.

In 2010, Team Bradley joined Offshore by conquering the Kaiwi Channel for the record-tying sixth straight year.

Dynasty? You bet, but don’t tell that to crew members – three of whom come from Kaua’i: Alana Goo Frazier, Kristen Foster and Noelani Auger.

“People may not believe this, but we actually feel like we’re the underdogs when we enter a race,” says veteran paddler Kelly Fey. “We do the best we can, and when we finish on top it’s always pretty amazing to us.”

Fey says because the women come from different clubs and different islands, getting everyone together is a challenge. Most have families, so the crew is forced to “find the blend” during a race.

“We train on our own, and I always push myself because I know how hard all the other girls are training,” says Fey, who has paddled on all six winning teams. “We have absolute trust and confidence in each other.”

No. 6 may have been the toughest yet. Mother Nature did little to help the field of 85 teams with grueling conditions. And for yet another year, the “Beach Girls” from Waikiki Beach Boys Canoe Club pushed Team Bradley to the limit, leading for nearly 30 miles of the 41-mile race.

“They were probably about a half-mile ahead of us, but we all have that same demeanor and we didn’t panic and didn’t quit,” says Fey. “We kept it together and somehow scrapped back.”

Team Bradley made its move as it passed Maunalua Bay and eventually surged ahead and extended its lead off Diamond Head. Team Bradley finished in a time of 5 hours, 54 minutes and 13 seconds, nearly three minutes ahead of Waikiki Beach Boys but well off its record time of 5:22:05 set in 2008.

“Everybody was cramping up. Hands wouldn’t open up to grab paddles – it was tough,” says Fey, who was joined by crew members Andrea Moller, Frazier, Cherisse Agorastos, Dane Ward, Foster, Lauren Bartlett, Lori Nakamura, Auger and Shelly Oates Wilding.

Despite “their” reluctance to say it, many are already talking about No. 7. Fey knows there are no guarantees, and when it comes to the unpredictable Kaiwi Channel, anything can happen.

“It’s just not something we talk about. If there is a seventh, it’s not something we’re thinking about,” chuckles Fey. “Just thinking about snagging another one is something I can’t comprehend. It’s just nice to keep it (the Na Wahine crown) at home.”

Rounding out the top 10 were Surfer’s Paradise of Australia, Team RevoluSun, Hawaiian Kanaktion, Team Australia, Kai Opua, Outrigger Canoe Club, Team Venus of Tahiti and Aussie Outrigger Chicks.

Several Kaua’i clubs also raced across the Kaiwi Channel and fared well:

12 – Niumalu
18 – Kaiola Blue
23 – Kukuiula
44 – Puuwai Masters

54 – Kaiola Gold
58 – Kukuiula Masters

For complete times and results of all participants, visit pseresults.com.

But as anyone who has made the crossing knows, everyone who finishes is a winner.

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