Sunday, July 18, 2010

Garden Island Newspaper says - 2 paths to same journey - Molokai

Article by David Simon - The Garden Island | Posted: Saturday, July 17, 2010 11:45 pm

 LIHU‘E — Sometimes in sports, as in life, athletes can reach the same destination by traveling along much different paths.

As the Moloka‘i to O‘ahu Paddleboard Race draws near, the sold-out event will have the most participants in its history, including 12 women who will be making the 32-mile journey across the Ka‘iwi Channel as solo competitors.

Two of those 12 women are Kaua‘i residents who have much different histories in terms of experience, but are two of the most compelling athletes to follow during the July 25 event.

Ann Hettinger of Princeville will be making her first attempt at the Moloka‘i race, taking to the water among the ever-growing field of stand-up paddlers. Hettinger came to Kaua‘i for the first time in early 2000 after living most of her life in Denver, then returned as a resident a few years ago. The 52-year-old grandmother, who says she was a two-pack-a-day smoker until the age of 35, has just over a year’s experience in SUP. She said that while first learning, she would just go out on a giant surfboard. “I loved it because it was a way for me to get out on the water,” she said. “I just fell in love with that.” While still living in Colorado, Hettinger gave up smoking and began long-distance running. She now feels that her open-water adventures are mostly a new and improved way to push herself, both physically and mentally. “I feel so blessed to be out there,” she said. “The open ocean, it’s an amazing place, but one to be very highly respected.”

Kanesa Duncan Seraphin is a highly respected traditional paddler among those in the know. The Kapa‘a resident is approaching her 10th entry into the Moloka‘i race and has finished in first place in her division seven times. Duncan Seraphin, who moved to Hawai‘i in 1999, said she can still remember reading about the Moloka‘i race for the first time in the newspaper. That particular year, no women had entered and only three had crossed the channel in the event’s history. “That’s what inspired me, that newspaper article,” she said.

After participating in some six-man canoe competitions, Duncan Seraphin competed in her first paddleboard race from Sunset Beach to Waimea Beach in 2000. She then bought her very own paddleboard for the first time in 2001 and took to the Ka‘iwi Channel. That year, she was the only woman to paddle solo in the event and broke the women’s record as a first-time competitor.

Since 2001, she has taken on the challenge of the Catalina Classic, traveled to compete in Australia, done a number of recent paddles on Kaua‘i, among other open-water events.
“Once I got into the sport, it’s like a family,” she said. “Everyone was really supportive of me and of me doing well.”

Hettinger has also been privy to an outpouring of support along her journey.
“Last year in April, a friend asked if I wanted to paddle outrigger,” she said. “I fell in love with that. Then through outrigger, I found out about Moloka‘i.” In September, Hettinger made the decision to take on the 32-mile solo paddle, mostly because she wanted to challenge herself and see what she was made of. The unique nature of her story provoked a friend to suggest she document her training, concluding with the Moloka‘i race. She was put in touch with Joel Guy, a North Shore resident born and raised on Kaua‘i, who felt that this was a story worth telling. Guy, both a filmmaker and surf cinematographer, founded Hanalei Grass Shack Productions in 2003. The two formed a partnership in which Guy has recorded her entire training process, able to use the surrounding scenery almost as its own character. “We’ve got such a great backdrop,” she said. “I mean, we’ve got Kaua‘i.”

On Nov. 16, two months into her training process, Hettinger was out for one of her typical runs when she was attacked by a dog on Kuhio Highway in the Waipa area. “There were actually two dogs that I saw, so I turned around to go back to Hanalei,” she said. “But the dog was on the attack. Thank goodness this guy stopped.” Hettinger was rescued, but the ensuing leg injury required surgery and put her on crutches for six weeks, setting her behind schedule for training and keeping her out of the water for three months. “Every night I would go down to the Hanalei Pier on crutches and just look at the water,” she said. “People would see me and say ‘We are all cheering for you.’ ” When she was able to get back in the water in February, Hettinger began to get more involved in open-ocean paddling. The experience was still a new one for her and she would ritually go out with a partner. On one of her training days at Kahlihiwai, Hettinger’s partner was unable to make it to join her. She decided it was an opportunity to test her mettle. “I said to myself, ‘If I can’t get out there by myself right now, I don’t belong in Moloka‘i,’” she said. So she informed a friend that she was heading out, threw her cell phone and other precautionary items into a small bag and set into the water solo. “That was a big turning point,” she said. “It was probably the best thing I could have done for myself.” Hettinger’s training has continued on schedule, with a strong workload on her plate each day. She typically will do an ocean run with a lot of training in the mountains — seven to 10 miles — to build leg strength. She said she also paddles every day.

Similarly, Duncan Seraphin originally found a marathon training schedule and adapted it to the water.
“I write out a training program for the season, then try to stick to it, depending on the surf and the wind,” she said.

Ocean elements are an issue of which Duncan Seraphin has unique knowledge. When she isn’t in the water, she is a scientist specializing in marine science education. “I teach others how to teach about ocean sciences,” she said, noting that many of her students are at the graduate level, education and science majors. “We talk about wave motion, tides, underwater pressure, all different types of concepts.”

Though she doesn’t know Hettinger personally, Duncan Seraphin said that she knows her story and feels it is an indication of the growth the Moloka‘i to O‘ahu race has experienced. “I think that (Hettinger) doing the race, it’s sort of the epitome of being inspired by this channel and everybody crossing on the same day,” she said.

That idea of togetherness is one that the seven-time champion stressed as one of the major characteristics of the paddling community. “It’s really like a family,” she said. “There is something about it that’s pretty amazing, that camaraderie.”

With July 25 approaching on the calendar, Hettinger said she is experiencing a myriad of emotions.
“As it has drawn closer, a little bit of anxiety, excitement, fear, you name it — I think I’m facing every emotion,” she said. “I think it’s going to be like giving birth. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like, but I know it’s going to be painful.” Hettinger will be heading to Moloka‘i on Friday and is hoping to mentally prepare for the culmination of her journey. “I just want to get into my zone, think about all the preparation that I’ve done, get into my own space and get real quiet with myself,” she said. “Everything to this point has just been eat, drink, sleep Moloka‘i.”

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