Friday, July 23, 2010

Siren Songs Volume 3: Joanna Bilancieri, Honolulu - Oahu

I don't remember exactly when I met Joanna. All of the adventures sort of blend together, but I think it was about 11 years ago when she decided to train for the six-man canoe races in Tahiti when she didn't canoe paddle at all. She just got on a one-man, headed out on a SUPER-WINDY Hawaii Kai run & called it success. She paddled about 2 miles out to sea, caught waves, and loved it! As I've come to know, this is typical Joanna style!

Mid Channel, Kaiwi, 2009

Marathon? check.

XTERRA? check.

Gnarly off-road bike vacation in a foreign country solo? check.

Outer reef surf in victory-at-sea conditions? check.

Joanna does it all, and she does it with a big smile! (She also goes pretty damn fast!) ... so it comes as no surprise that in 2008, when Joanna came to watch the Molokai race finish, that she would instantly fall in love with the challenge of Kaiwi.

As she says, "I watched my friends cross the finish line of the 2008 Molokai race and immediately was addicted to paddleboarding!  Crossing the channel was added to my list of adventures.

Practicing diligently, on a stock Bark board, I prepared for the challenge in 2009.  Molokai 2009 was one of the best days of my life, and I heard a lot of competitors complaining about the conditions.  I thought to myself, "Well, if I had that much fun, I cannot wait for 'good' conditions!"

My adrenaline rush lasted as long as I was unable to lift my arms overhead
--- 3 days!

Needless to say, I was already stoked for 2010--this time on custom Bark unlimited board.  I started training at the end of December, 2009 and gradually progressed the workouts with short sessions, long sessions, and really really long sessions, upwind, downwind, crosswind, and days of victory at sea.  I added cross training, swim lessons, circuit training (and, of course, surfing, kitesurfing, mountain biking, trail running :) )--all to prepare to work with Mother Nature, regardless of the mood she was in on any given day.

I was fortunate to attain sponsorship by Hammer Nutrition, keeping me fueled on the journey, and Mr. Joe Bark himself.  Joe made me two magic carpets, and I am forever grateful. 

I have to share some of the most awe-striking experiences I have had while paddleboarding.  I caught amazing waves starting beyond Castles to inside Kaimana, from Sandbars to the channel.  I encountered two whales breaching on the North Shore, about a hundred yards from me.  I told a Hawaiian man at Ali'i Beach Park who was staring at the horizon looking for whales.  He told me that I was blessed.... and, if that was not close enough, I was paddleboarding a Hawaii Kai run and had a whale breach no more than 20 yards from me, up and over my path!  If I wasn't in a state of shock, I probably would have felt its splash--I guess I am really blessed having gotten that close.

Paddleboarding draws a vibe from the ocean-conscious and those of great athleticism.  I just wish I had gotten on board 10 years ago!  Off to paddle..." (ok well rest - we're on taper to Sunday!)

Look for a strong showing from Joanna this Sunday. She is sure to turn some heads and push the pace! Oh, and if you happen to work yourself too hard during the race, look her up next week. Joanna is a physical therapist who runs her own practice, Back In Action, Inc., located in Kailua, Oahu.

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