It was 6 am and I was waking up to my first day visiting the beautiful Island of Maui. I was excited to get out and start my day because thanks to my Aunt Gerri, I had a very special interview lined up on the beautiful Sugar Beach of North Kihei. As I walked up to the beach I immediately started looking for a pink paddle that was suppose to be tied up to a tree. There I was told I would find the very special members of the Mana’olana Pink Paddlers – Maui’s only nonprofit Hawaiian Outrigger Paddling Organization. True to their word, the area was teeming with men and women conversing and interacting with one another, preparing to enjoy a morning of paddling.
There was something truly magical about being there that day. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the members of this paddling group are all survivors of cancer or caregivers or simply wonderful supporters of the cause. Members can be any age, any gender and can come from anywhere around the world. The Mana’olana Pink Paddlers’ focus is on helping Cancer Survivors regain health & happiness.
Just about everyone around me was wearing the symbolic colour Pink. Even their canoes were all deckled up in pink.
I walked up to the beach front desk and paid my “One Time Paddle” fee of $20.00. A nominal fee for honorary non-members that was well worth the one hour paddle and the opportunity to meet some amazing people.
Once everyone arrived, new members and guests huddled together for a special demonstration on how to paddle. A single hull canoe takes 6 paddlers and the double hull canoe, also known as an outrigger canoe, houses 12 paddlers… so it was pretty important that we all understood how to paddle as a team.
Click here to see a demonstration of all the important details to follow when being a paddler on one of these beautiful canoes.
Before we headed out, everyone gathered to be assigned to one of four canoes. The Pink Paddlers have a First Come – First in Boat Policy, and as I looked around at the enormous amount of people who have chosen to come out this day, I started to realize that I may not even get the chance to paddle. I eagerly waited for my name to be called and lucky for me, because I was there to take photos for my story, they decided instead of me paddling they were going to put me on the back of a canoe! – an idea that caught me off guard at the beginning as this meant I would not be given a dedicated seat in the canoe. I don’t have the strongest set of upper thigh muscles, was I going to be able to keep my balance in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?! In any case, in the name of getting the story… I agreed to their terms, and to the back of the canoe I went! Help?!
The process of getting the canoes off the beach and into the water was quite the production. Our team on this day comprised of our captain, the counter – who is the person who calls out the strokes so we all paddle in sync, current members and of course us “Newbie Honorary Members”. We all had to work quickly and efficiently as a team, all awhile still listening for the commands of our captain.
Once we made it safely out onto the waters and with everyone paddling proudly in unison, we started to look for what everyone looks for when out in these waters, whales! And believe it or not, in no time we see one! Unfortunately this whale was just a little too far for us to paddle to and as one member mentioned, it was also feeding time, so probably not a good idea to approach it!
After about 10 minutes of paddling, we rafted up – a term that describes what paddlers do when the waters get choppy. (The lady in the paddling demonstration video called it “linking up”, another way to describe the converging of canoes.) But this was a beautiful day, the skies were clear and the waters were calm, so we were simply coming together for a beautiful Morning Blessing and the opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves. I soon found out I was not the only Canadian paddling amongst us this morning.
After the introductions we broke away from our huddle and slowly headed back to shore. We kept our eyes open for turtles, but as with the whales, it must have been feeding time. So no such luck.
As we made our way back onto the beach, I figured since I didn’t have an official spot in the canoe, I could quietly hop off and start taking shots of the team going through an impressive process of brining the canoes back onto the shores of Sugar Beach. Here’s a video that really demonstrates the team effort that was involved to dock these beauties. I did feel a little guilty that I didn’t help out, but this way I was able to bring you this great video..
At the end of this whole experience, I was honoured to be able to join in on the wonderful tradition of a Post-Paddle Gathering. A time for everyone to mingle, share new information about the club and catch up on the lives of amazing individuals who have come together to share their stories of sadness and of joy, their hopes and their fears. But most importantly rejoice in the sharing of their victories in life with Cancer. And true to mantra of this amazing organization.. this day and every day like it, they are helping Cancer Survivors regain health & happiness.
Cancer Survivors who think they may want to join the Pink Paddlers can come out and paddle their first day for free. If they choose to join, their first year is only $2.00! Maui Visitors can paddle for $20.00 their first time out. The Pink Paddlers go out every Tuesday and Thursday and you must be at the beach location before 7:45 in the morning. You paddle in safe double-hull canoes captained by a certified steers person and strong, experienced Mana’olana paddlers so survivors don’t need to be strong to paddle.
They can only take a limited number of visitors each day, so get there early.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of Cancer and wants to learn more about this amazing organization, take a moment to visit their website. http://www.manaolanapinkpaddlersmaui.org/
There is so much that this club has to offer and their mission statement really puts it all into perspective.
To cultivate hope, health, fitness, and fun for cancer survivors, By getting them up, out and about, and embracing the active Maui lifestyle. Utilizing traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes, And a strong cadre of paddling supporters. We encourage physical exercise to build strength, confidence, and friendship.
This was an experience that was truly worth getting up early for, spending a wonderful morning getting physically active and meeting a great group of people. Thank you to the members of the Mana’olana Pink Paddlers for allowing me to partake in the paddling experience and to let me take and post these wonderful images and videos of my time with them. It was an amazing morning and a once in a lifetime experience!