Paddlers Sacrifice, As Do Families

Paddlers off Pearl Harbor in the Henry Ayau International canoe race

Webster defines “sacrifice” as the act of offering to a deity something precious, the surrender of something for the sake of something else or something that is given up or lost.

Quite frankly, it is a word I use too often, and chances are others do as well. Think about it. When was the last time you made a real sacrifice? Did it come at “your” expense or the expense of “someone else?” If you’re being completely honest with yourself, you may not like the answer.

Athletes often talk about making sacrifices to reach their full potential. We complain about the long hours of training, chronic aches and pains, drastic changes to our diets and passing on some of the pleasures life has to offer – again, all in the name of sacrifice.

But, for the majority of us, this sacrifice is shared by others in our lives, mainly our families and those dear to our heart. In fact, when you really think about it, our wives, husbands and children “sacrifice” as much as we do, if not more.

The end of September and the beginning of October marks the end of a long canoe paddling season for thousands of paddlers across the state. Truth is, it’s really three seasons that overlap each other, but we don’t dare tell our families the real story.

It starts in early January with one-man races, which blends into the summer regatta season and continues with long-distance races, culminating in the Molokaito-Oahu long distance world championships. Ten months of training, hard work and sacrifice, all to reach our full potential.

But at whose expense? I often joke with friends about how I have to reintroduce myself to my children each October. But is that sacrifice or selfishness? As I prepare myself physically and mentally for another crossing of the Kaiwi Channel Oct. 10, I reflect on the truth, and I’m humbly reminded that sacrifice is a two-way street.

I can’t tell you how many football games I’ve missed, how many horse shows I didn’t get to and how many family picnics I’ve skipped – again, all in the name of sacrifice.

Yet over the years my family has always supported me. There is no grumbling or guilt trips when I walk out the door before the sun rises on weekends or when I return well after the sun sets on weekdays. And win or lose, they are at the finish line greeting me with smiles, hugs and well-wishes. Unconditional love, unconditional sacrifice.

It is a challenge to balance “daddy time” and “family time.” It’s why I always tell my mates to make memories out on the ocean because chances are we’re missing out on opportunities with our loved ones waiting for us on the beach or at home. We can’t do what we do without them. We can’t reach our full potential without their support. That’s real sacrifice and that’s something we must never forget.

So to my wife Michelle and my children Dane, Haven and Tai-John, thank you for your understanding, patience, love and most of all your sacrifice.

I’m almost done and I can’t wait.

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