Photograph courtesy of Mark Yamauchi and Carolyn Caballes.

“Paddling isn’t a sport.”

I don’t know how many times I have heard these exasperating words come from the mouths of my fellow classmates. It really bothers me, especially since I am part of the PAC-Five paddling team.

Paddling may not be what you might typically think of when talking about a sport; there are no plays, or tricks in paddling. Instead of having games, paddlers have regattas or races. Learning to be a paddler is not a complicated process, but to be a good one involves hard work and commitment.

Paddling relies heavily on teamwork. When in the canoe, you need people that you can count on. If one person in the boat slacks or gives up, it brings down the entire team. Commitment is of utmost importance; paddlers have to make it to every practice in order to get better and not let down the team.

[one_third]My coach once said that a paddler will never have the perfect stroke; there is always something to work on.[/one_third]

In training for the regattas, paddlers work on timing, technique, power, endurance, and racing. The stroke is probably the most important aspect. “Lock your elbow. Twist. Straighten your top and bottom arm. Reach. Push straight down. Head up. Place your hand lower. Timing,” are only some of the corrections heard every day. My coach once said that a paddler will never have the perfect stroke; there is always something to work on.

The PAC-Five paddling schedule is very time consuming. Practices are on Mondays through Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m. and usually consist of working on technique and 2 to 5 mile races. After getting out of the water, the team runs long distances or does workouts. To build up our endurance, our coach makes us run the Ala Wai loop, which is about 5 miles long. Tuesday practices are swim days; we run down to Magic Island and swim three laps from one end of the island to the other, taking about an hour and a half. On Saturdays we have double practices starting at 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and resuming at 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The regatta (or race) season begins with a three mile race and works its way up to six miles. The final course goes from Magic Island to Kewalos to Walls and back to Magic Island. As PAC-Five is a Division I sport, we race against schools like Punahou and Kamehameha who tend to dominate in paddling.

Having participated in swimming, soccer and volleyball before paddling, I can say that paddling by far has been the toughest sport for me. It requires a strong mental attitude, commitment to your crew, endurance that can last up to more than an hour in the boat, and love for the sport. Not many people can paddle 6 miles in the open ocean in an hour, but my team did. So I can definitely say that yes, paddling is a sport.