This article has been out for a few days now, so many of you may have already read it. I decided to post on it anyway, as I think everybody who paddles, really ought to read this. Dave is a personal hero of mine and a true inspiration. I get so much out of reading his blog entries, that I want to make sure that anyone who comes across this site, gets a chance to see it.
Photo sourced from B On Hawaii
– March 5, 2011
About four years ago, Laird and I had concocted a plan to Stand up paddle across all the major channels in Hawaii and ride our bikes across every island, in an effort to help support our friend Don King, who was making a documentary about raising a autistic child. He needed some money to finish the project and Laird and I needed something to occupy our comfortable summer with some type of pain and suffering. It seemed like a great idea at the time of inception but turned out to be way more than I bargained for, but that’s par for the course when you run with a like minded, slightly skewed, well intended, but over zealous type like Laird (meant in the best way possible). In the end, it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.
While there are numerous stories to pick from, for this article I’d like to share an experience that I had while paddling between Oahu and Kauai.
We started from Kaena point at ten thirty at night, hoping that we would get to Kauai before sunset the following evening. That channel can be done in the course of a day but unfortunately for us the winds were blowing Kona. Not strongly but nonetheless the opposite direction you want for paddling that channel. With trades it’s 12 to 15 hours, with Konas 18 +. I honestly thought when we jumped in the water we were just playing a game of chicken, because neither one of us was going to back down–the Kauai channel is hard enough when the wind is blowing with you, it’s just unimaginable when the wind is against you. But in classic testosterone-fueled fashion, neither one of us was going to be the first to say uncle, so we paddled on into the night and for the next twenty two hours.
Somewhere around one or two the next day, Laird had managed to get at least a mile ahead, probably closer to two. It was weighing on me heavily at the time because I wanted this to be something we did together–literally. But over the course of about three hours Laird was really maintaining a faster pace then I could. When I first started to consider a push, to try and catch up, it seemed unimaginable. After paddling for at least fifteen hours at that point, where would I find the energy to make a push like that? I waffled back and forth for about twenty minutes trying to decide if it was a smart thing to do. If I went too hard, I might kill my chances of even making it, and after paddling that far I did not want to come up short. So I came up with lots of sound reasons to just maintain my pace and finish the journey. But I would have finished in the dark and probably an hour or two behind Laird. No shame in finishing second to Laird right? Wrong!
This was a moment in my life, where I was presented with a true challenge. Not a game of chicken with a friend or a challenge from a drinking buddy, but one that could possibly define me. Define what was inside, define what I stood for, define my very soul. Was I going to be content to just finish, or was I going to stand up to a task that just seemed unfathomable at a point where everything sensible told me to be smart, conserve my energy and finish. So to get my mind right for the challenge I used a technique I employ when I am being worked by a big wave. I compartmentalize the situation and just try to manage the task right in front of me. Don’t try to manage the whole thing at once, just deal with what’s right at your finger tips. And then after a few seconds deal with the next thing that’s at your finger tips and so on. That way you make your path through a tough situation one small manageable step at a time rather than overwhelming yourself with the whole ball of wax.
So with that in mind, the first thing I attacked was my breathing. Starting slow at first and very cautiously increasing at an almost unmeasurable pace forward. In my mind I kept saying to myself ’just go for a little while and see how you feel’, being careful not to try and catch up all at once. After about five minutes I felt like I was playing with fire but still under control, so I thought I would turn up the focus on breathing for a while then turn up the intensity of my stroke. This went on back and forth for about twenty minutes and by this point I was starting to work myself into a bit of a lather. I had focused so much on my breathing that it had literally sucked me into a trance. I looked up occasionally to see if my effort was making any difference and for the first half hour it was hard to tell because he was so far ahead of me. And then one time I looked up and YES! It was making a difference. So that fueled the fire and I took my breathing to a full blown possessed inhale and exhale, which in turn sucked me into a complete paddle frenzy. So much so, I distinctly remember saying to myself ‘I don’t care if I make the paddle across the channel, I will catch Laird if it takes my last breath’. I had managed to work myself into a full blown possessed paddle frenzy, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since, but at least I know it’s in there. If I ever really needed to call upon it again I hope I could find it, but I’m not sure.
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