Wait Is Finally Over For Beach Girls

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - October 05, 2011
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Waikiki Beach Boys women’s crew Kelsa Gabehart, Dana Gorecki, Lindsey Shank, Andrea Messer, Rachel Bruntsch and Kaui Pelekane paddle to the win. In the escort boat: Sue Brown, Eko Kuilani-Lapp, Jen Polcer, Frances Lichowski, Alexia Lopez and Sean Monahan. Twain Newhart photo

Consistency, chemistry, commitment and trust are words used in outrigger canoe paddling. Those who believe in those qualities are the ones who often succeed. Those who don’t buy in seldom reach their full potential.

The Waikiki Beach Boys women’s crew was all in this year. Their goal was to win the Na Wahine o Ke Kai, the world championship of outrigger canoe paddling.

The “Beach Girls” had heard the quiet rumblings after a third-place finish and two consecutive runner-up finishes, “always the bridesmaid never the bride.” The chatter was getting old. But the women never got down. They stayed consistent and committed to each other. It’s all part of chemistry and trust.

“I remember being on the beach at Waikiki a year ago and I made a comment that we had unfinished business to take care of,” says longtime team member Dana Gorecki. “We didn’t accomplish what we set out to do and we needed to come back.”

Gorecki says the women met last winter with their coach Sean Monahan to discuss their level of commitment and if the core group of women was willing to compete at the highest level, again.

“A decision was made that day that we wanted another shot at this.”

The first steps toward achieving their goal came during the Na Ohana o na Hui Waa summer regatta season. The Beach Girls ruled the women’s events and rode that wave of momentum into the longdistance racing season. They continued their dominance, winning several races, but knew six-time defending champion Team Bradley would be back to defend its title.

(from left) Kaui Pelekane, Andrea Messer, Dana Gorecki, Rachel Bruntsch, Kelsa Gabehart, Frances Lichowski, Jennifer Polcer, Alexia Lopez, Lindsey Shank and Eko Kuilani-Lapp are all smiles after winning the Na Wahine o Ke Kai. Twain Newhart photo

“Winning the channel was definitely our overall goal, but what we really wanted to do was put together a clean race and have everyone give what they’re capable of giving and see what happens from there,” she says.

What happened was near perfection. In grueling, flat and steaming conditions, Waikiki Beach Boys Canoe Club paddled a near flawless race. The Beach Girls led from the opening mile and never looked back. They even flirted with breaking the course record.

“We didn’t realize that we were on record pace, but once we learned that we were, we made the decision not to focus on that,” says Gorecki. “That was never our goal, so rather than push ourselves to break a record we pushed ourselves to complete our mission.”

After five hours, 25 minutes and two seconds, their mission was complete. The Waikiki Beach Boys crossed the finish line nearly two minutes ahead of Team Bradley, snapping its six-year winning streak.

“It was so gratifying to finally do it,” says an excited Gorecki. “It was exciting, overwhelming and every emotion you can think of crossing the finish line first was unbelievable. It feels great to do it for the club and for the Hui Waa Association. It was phenomenal.”

Gorecki was quick to credit coaches Monahan and Sue Brown.

“They started coaching us in 2001, and they had the vision of building the women’s program with a goal of winning Molokai,” says Gorecki. “Sean has made major sacrifices on himself and his family to be with us. He’s given up his athletic career (one of the world’s top paddleboarders and lifeguards) to coach us. Flat out, we could not have done this without him and Sue and their level of commitment.”

Veteran paddler Jason Ignacio may have said it best moments after the Beach Girls crossed the finish line. “Perseverance defined,” he said. “After years of chasing the dream, coming in top two or three for years, well-deserved!”

Yes, this was well-deserved, and what made it even sweeter was the women had dedicated the race to one the club’s founders, William “Moku” Kamaka, who died Aug. 14 at the age of 77.

“This one was for him,” says Gorecki. “Waikiki Beach Boys was created and founded in 1973 with the vision of winning the channel. The wait is finally over.”


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