Paddlers ‘bronzed’ in Bora Bora

Ron Lund found himself along the waterfront in Silverdale one day, intrigued by what he was watching out on Dyes Inlet.

Silverdale’s Hui Heihei Wa’a Outrigger Canoe Club was hosting its annual regatta.

“I asked how you get involved,” Lund said. “It was $10 and an application.”

Five years later, Lund found himself part of a senior master men’s team (age 50 and above) that was in Bora Bora, competing in the 2002 World Sprint Outrigger Canoe Championships.

The team from Silverdale became the first paddlers from the U.S. mainland to win a medal in the 20-year history of the world championships, finishing third in the 500-meter event.

Lund, at 70, was the oldest registered paddler in the competition, which drew over 1,000 paddlers from 14 countries. Other Hui Heihei Wa’a paddlers were Mike Byers, Cedric Tabanera, Kim LaFontaine, Mike Szewcyzk, Patrick Rammell and Al Atiz.

“It’s the thrill of a lifetime really,” Lund said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything on this scale. When we crossed the finish line, we were so tired, but the adrenaline was going so fast. It was pretty exciting. Getting up on the podium and having them raise the flags and do all that, that brought a tear to my eye.”

The Silverdale club also competed in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter races by meeting certain qualifying standards during regattas last season.

The paddlers practiced during the frigid winter months to get ready for the trip to Bora Bora. When Dyes Inlet was too rough, and it was rough more times than not, they moved their training sessions to Kitsap Lake.

“It was cold and it was miserable,” Lund said.

The weather was hot — temperatures reached 103 degrees with 92 percent humidity — and the racing conditions in Bora Bora were perfect.

“We had 14 racing lanes in a beautiful lagoon that was protected by a series of small islands and a reef,” he said. “Fourteen lanes is a heckuva long way into the water, but the water depth at the last lane was not even arm-pit length. The depth of the water we raced in was about four or five feet.”

The teams competed in identical double hull outriggers that were provided by race officials.

“They made all the boats in the same mold,” Lund said. “They tried to make them identical. I didn’t hear any complaints. They did the same with the one-man boats, too. It would have been too expensive to take your own boat.”

Two teams from Tahiti finished ahead of the Hui Heihei Wa’a club, which covered the 500 meters in 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

“The Tahitians were a lot faster,” Lund said. “We knew we couldn’t beat the Tahitians. Because of the weather, they can paddle every day. There was a team from Hawaii that was hand-picked by a world-famous coach. We beat them. We’re prouder of that than anything else.”

Atiz and Tabanera are transplanted Hawaiians and the others, except for Lund, were born and raised in Hawaii.

It didn’t take long for Lund for become a die-hard paddler.

“I bought into it hook, line and sinker,” he said. “It’s a good, clean sport. It’s great exercise and the people I paddle with are wonderful people. I really enjoy their company. It’s the same way with everybody in the club. The Hawaiians, they don’t need much of an excuse to have a potluck and a good time.”

The Hui Heihi Wa’a crew hopes to qualify for the 2004 world championships, which will be held in Hawaii. New Zealand (2004) and Sacramento, Calif. (2006) are other future sites of the competition.

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