You’re Never Too Old To ‘Stand Up’

Ann and her board Pinkie

Have you ever been told if you don’t stop doing something, you’ll die?

That happened to Princeville’s Ann Hettinger some 20 years ago, when her daughter wanted her to quit smoking. Her daughter was so serious about her mom’s health that she even made a science project about it.

For Hettinger, it was more than just a project, it was about staying alive for years to come.

“That was a turning point in my life,” she says. “I smoked two packs a day, the only source of activity for me was either mowing the lawn or cleaning the house.”

After the huge accomplishment of kicking her habit, the 52-year-old Denver native went on an athletic binge after not even playing a sport in her life or exercising whatsoever.

“I decided to join a gym, lifting weights, running,” she says. “I ran a mile on the indoor track and that amazed me. I couldn’t believe I did that.”

She then changed her diet and began competing in 5K and even marathon races. Then her life would change again in 1998 when she came to Kaua’i on vacation.

“I just fell in love with the place,” she says. “I went to the Big Island on a boat tour, and I told one of the tour guides that he’s so lucky to live in Hawaii. He told me I could as well, and it was as easy as just moving here.”

And she did. Just two years ago she moved to Princeville and began another life-changing experience.

Hettinger accepted an offer from a friend to go stand-up paddling. Little did she know that it would become such an important part of her life.

“I really loved the ocean,” she says. “I started doing it more and more, and I joined a canoe club in Hanalei.”

Hettinger would take her stand-up paddling hobby to a new level when she learned about the 32-mile Molokai-to-Oahu Paddle-board World Championship on July 25. It’s considered by many to be the world championship of paddle-board racing.

“I really felt this was something that captured me, I felt an intense desire to do Molokai,” she says.

She decided to do the race and she’s even having her experience featured in an upcoming documentary.

“The way we grow is to take on personal challenges and fears,” she says. Hettinger heeded her own advice.

Ann Hettinger seems to have the Na Pali coast all to herself

She started training with well-known waterman Steve Cole of Kalihiwai. She even had a specially designed board shaped.

“It’s very noticeable because it’s bright pink,” she says.

But Hettinger would be tested once again during a freak incident. As she was on a training run near the highway in Waipa, she was

attacked by a dog. She says if it wasn’t for a brave man who stopped to help her, she wouldn’t have survived.

“I was on crutches for six weeks,” she says. “I didn’t get into the water for three months, but I did go to the gym and tried to maintain some kind of physical shape.”

She pushed herself to go down to the pier on her crutches to be near the ocean. In February, she finally got back into the water and started to train heavily, up to six hours a day.

Hettinger’s strength and determination increased enough to do a test run for a few miles, from Kalihiwai to Hanalei. She was planning on doing this with a friend. But that wouldn’t happen – her friend couldn’t make it.

“My legs were trembling,” Hettinger says. “I did it alone, the waves were going off. It was probably the best thing I could’ve done for myself.”

It enabled her to get past that fear of paddling on her own.

But just like the other fears she’s conquered, it won’t be impossible to do.

“I have a lot of endurance, strength and determination, but my weak point is technique, it’s still a huge learning process, but I’m really excited,” she says.

Hettinger’s goal is just to complete this year’s race, but to truly compete the following year.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” she says. “I’ve met so many unbelievable people, cheering me on, giving me support and never experienced anything quite like this. We’re here for only a short time on this earth, and you have to face things that you fear and even conquer them.”

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