"It's so peaceful. It’s quiet, and all you hear is the paddles hitting the water together,” she says, describing marvelous encounters with dolphins and turtles. Now that her kids are grown, she has more time to walk—she clocks more than 1,000 miles a year on foot—and to paddle. She also appreciates the social aspect of paddling, a sport that encompasses all ages and all kinds of people.
Several of Bauman’s teammates have become close friends on land as well. “It’s reassuring to know that we are a support system for each other any time any of us have problems—like health problems, which are common, unfortunately, as you get older,” she says.
“Longhi died of a heart attack paddling his one-man. Fell off the boat. Another one had a heart attack right here. We start losing our colleagues when we’re in our 50s and 60s,” she says, looking down at the sand. “That was years ago, but we never forget.”
Asked what the best paddling advice he ever received is, Uncle Randy pauses before blurting, “Show up for practice!”
Sanborn credits his cousin, renowned beach boy Blue Makua, for teaching him technical skills like how to rig the ‘ama, the outrigger, to the canoe’s hull. These are skills that you can’t learn from books, and he passes this valuable knowledge on to younger generations. “He’s a legend. There’s only one person like that,” Sanborn says of his late cousin. Each year, he holds a popular Masters race in honor of Blue Makua.
Manu’s 170 members—more than sixty of them kids—hold Uncle Randy in the same high regard. His volunteer commitment to his paddlers, ranging from ages 8 to 71, reflects the selfless service he gave for twenty-five years as a firefighter. At regattas, he and his wife of forty-six years, Aloha (presiding secretary of the Na ‘Ohana O Na Hui Wa‘a Association) are the first to arrive and the last to leave. He’s the one who shuttles the club’s canoes to rotating regatta sites around the island. When everyone gathers to make laulau for club fundraisers, he brings the pork, teaches everyone how to tie the ti leaf bundles and mans the giant steamer. Each year, he hosts a big lü‘au after the club’s home regatta. His generosity makes his paddlers feel privileged—when you’re part of Uncle Randy’s club, you’re part of his paddling ‘ohana.
Coaching with encouragement and good humor—“Drunk driver!” he’ll shout when a novice canoe swerves down the race lane—Sanborn cultivates new crews that understand the values of teamwork, devotion and good sportsmanship.
“Respect,” says 23-year-old Mato Park without hesitation when asked what she has learned from eight years of paddling under Uncle Randy’s tutelage, starting when she was a high school sophomore. Now she steers the open women’s crew. “Uncle Randy taught us respect. Not just for other paddlers. He makes us take care of the things we use.” She rattles off other values: teamwork, dedication, work ethic. “He also teaches us to work with what we’ve got,” she says. “He’s so fair to everyone. It’s surprising how far you can go with that attitude.”
Then she smirks, adding, “Nah, what he really taught me was how to yell!”
“You mean, how to be heard,” a smiling fellow crewmember chimes in. They’re referring to the steersperson’s duty to not only navigate but also to cheerlead.
“Canoe paddling, you always learn. New techniques, new styles of paddles, new rules. It never stops,” Sanborn says. He emphasizes it’s all about having fun. “If you don’t enjoy yourself, no sense paddle. Find another sport. Play ping-pong or something—you know what I mean?” HH