An Epic Voyage Of Trust, Hope

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - August 25, 2010
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It was an epic voyage filled with life lessons and messages of hope.

On Aug. 11, 17 teenagers, most of whom had never paddled a canoe in their short but turbulent lives, accomplished what many will never attempt in their lifetime. They crossed the Kaiwi Channel, paddling from Molokai to Oahu - just like the world champions of long-distance outrigger canoe paddling do every fall. It was the same course and same grueling test of physical and mental endurance.

But this crossing came with a far different sense of fulfillment.

“Most of these young men have been through very hard times with drugs, alcohol and, in some cases, violence,” says coach Steve Holbrook about the teenagers from the Big Island, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai. “The Marimed Foundation has given them self-discipline and self-pride.”

The Marimed Foundation was established in 1984 in Hawaii. The nonprofit corporation uses ocean- and land-based learning experiences to empower youths and families. Over the past 15 years, Marimed has provided a variety of residential day treatment and education services to “at-risk” Hawaii youths.

The teens started preparing for this challenge in March. The voyage was designed as part of the Kailana Program’s experiential therapy and education model for the teens (cadets) in its residential treatment program.

“The long-distance paddling program not only helps with the cadets’ therapy and healing, but it can lead to a personal lifelong physical activity and competition commitment,” says Lynn Carey of the Marimed Foundation. Holbrook says the teens trained for months, going on several long practice runs before the big challenge.

“The night before at Hale o Lono Harbor, as we sat around the campfire handing out jerseys, shorts and talking about the plan for tomorrow, I looked at their faces and knew they were ready.” says Holbrook. “They believed in each other and they trusted each other.”

Trust is something that had been lost in many of their lives.

The following morning, they left Molokai for the 41-mile journey to Magic Island. The conditions were brutal and intensified after entering the channel.

“It got so rough we couldn’t make changes,” says Holbrook. “Everyone got the chance to paddle and they battled the whole way. When we got to Hanauma Bay, they started catching waves. It was impressive to watch.”

It took the teens seven hours and 51 minutes to make the crossing. The accomplishment was a powerful moment for all involved.

“They were very aware that they had accomplished something very few people have even attempted, especially young men their age and anyone in their first year of paddling experience,” says Carey.

The 2010 Epic Voyage sponsors included Friends of Hawaii Charities, NFL Charities, Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation, Island Paddler and volunteers from Kailua Canoe Club.

“We want to enrich their lives through these experiences,” reflects Holbrook, a member of Kailua Canoe Club. “The kids were challenged, and their success will remind them that through dedication, focus and patience, they can do anything.”

Holbrook is already talking about their next goal, another big paddle.

“We want to circumnavigate Oahu. I know they can do it.”

The teens know it, too. They trust each other.

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