Every third Sunday in September, I look at the ocean and wonder what the conditions are like on the Ka’iwi Channel, the stretch of open ocean between Oahu and Molokai. Are there whitecaps? Is there a swell rippling across the ocean? What’s the wind doing? Is there a current?
Certain experiences in life create a bond among people. High school is one. College dorm life is one. An intense, drawn-out project at work, like the creation of a new website, is another. Things people do together that take grit, that are a challenge, that require teamwork. These kinds of things create bonds among people. Running a marathon qualifies. So does Na Wahine O Ke Kai.
It may have been six years since I last crossed the Ka’iwi Channel in an outrigger canoe with nine teammates, but every third Saturday of September, I think about my experiences and my teammates. And every time I fly over the channel separating the islands of Oahu and Molokai I look out the window and note the ocean conditions. One glance at the ocean, and I can tell what kind of crossing it would be if I were on the water in a canoe. Choppy? Better watch that ama, so it doesn't pop and huli (flip) the canoe. Swells? Paddle hard on the down run and expect a fast crossing. Flat as a lake? Paddle hard the whole way and expect a long slog across the 41-mile course.
I participated in the 41-mile outrigger canoe race known as Na Wahine O Ke Kai for the first time 10 years ago. My last was six years ago. But I re-live the experience every September. I wrote about one crossing for the now-defunct Wahine magazine. You can read that story here.