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Pacific Paddler cover April 2012

What a ride

It was wild! I really didn't want to go on John Foti's boat to take photos, but the opportunity to get spectacular images for the magazine overrode my anxiety. The seas looked nasty and without a water housing, I feared I would lose my camera gear to a wave splashing over the boat. It wouldn't take much to wreck my digital camera. I looked at my driver, Kalani Irvine. A paddler for Lanikai Canoe Club, he knew these waters and wouldn't go out unless he was confident we would make it. So full of anticipation, I secured my cameras under towels and waited for the action to unfold. Right from the start as the paddlers made there way out and over the reef, canoes were flipping and dodging mountains of water.

Paddlers were disappearing in the troughs only to pop up on a wave and then disappear again. At Kahekili's Leap, (Mokapu Peninsula) where Ulupa'u crater meets the sea, there are sheer smooth cliffs worn down from the thousands of years of pounding surf. There, backwash mixed with side-wash created a zone of froth and heaving ocean. Trying to stay centered and upright, I tried to get some shots off and hoped they'd be in focus. I tried to prepare for where I thought a paddler would momentarily appear and fire off a round of photos. Kalani managed to keep the boat in harmony with the pitching, rolling, heaving seas, and I came away with some spectacular images, split seconds in time capturing paddlers and the raw beauty of nature. The photo shoot came to an end when we were asked to assist in a rescue. A paddler had been pitched off his canoe and onto his ama, breaking it and ending his race — he was safe and my camera stayed dry.
I have spent 16 years covering our Polynesian sport for the magazine. We have seen the evolution of the canoe and paddle morph from wood and fiberglass, to carbon fiber and ultralight hulls and blades. New races have appeared and prize money offered. The sport has expanded outside of the Polynesian triangle and introduced far from our shores to countries abroad. I often wonder how I came to this moment in time. It seems like it all happened in the blink of an eye, like the cover photo, an instant in time. I have enjoyed being a witness to the growth of our sport, sharing what I have witnessed and keeping a record for future generations who can look back and marvel at how far the skill, techniques and technology of outrigger paddling has come. To our advertisers, thank you for letting me cover the sport for all these years. To our subscribers, thank you for your support, and to my family, thanks for helping me through the tough times, life's troughs - the ride has been spectacular and worth the effort.

Mahalo, Ropati Hebenstreit