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Molokai Paddlers Race at States, World Sprints

By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor

Molokai paddlers are representing the island at the state level as well as internationally this month. Six keiki crews and two wahine masters crews are racing at the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championships this Saturday, Aug. 6, held at Oahu’s Ke’ehi Lagoon. The following day, three of Molokai’s elite paddlers, Penny Martin, Camie Kimball and Torrey Goodman, will leave for London, England, where they will compete in the International Va’a Federation World Sprint Championship. 

Hosted by a different country around the world every two years, the World Sprints represent the highest level of outrigger canoe paddlers globally. Martin, Kimball and Goodman are all veteran competitors, each with a history of gold medals. Martin and Kimball are paddling with the Island Masters 70s crew, while Goodman is racing with the Island Masters 60s women. The Island Masters crews include women from across Hawaii, and more than 300 paddlers from the state will represent Team Hawaii at the event. 

“When we go there we are all representing Hawaii, and at World Sprints, Hawaii is recognized as a country, we fly our flag, and if we should medal, they play ‘Hawaii Pono’i,’” said Martin. “It’s a proud thing to go and represent Hawaii.”

Though they meet only several times prior to the World Sprints to practice together, longstanding friendships and decades of paddling both with each other and against each other in races produce winning World Sprint crews for the Island Masters. 

“We all come to the canoe with a lot of experience,” said Martin. “As adults, we are able to figure it out – we like each other, we all get along. There’s familiarity with each other and years of experience.”

Goodman agreed it’s all about the team.

“At this level of paddling, you adjust and compromise, it’s all about working together because you know every single person in that boat is an exceptionally good paddler and is trying their very best,” she said. “How can I blend and be the best partner in this boat that I can be?”

Qualifying time trials were held back in February, “so you have to get in shape to qualify, then stay in shape for the Sprints,” laughed Martin. 

Kimball said this is her first year paddling in the 70s division, and being at the younger end of the age group is an advantage. 

“I’m feeling hopeful because we’re just 70… we’ve always done really well at the bottom [of the division age-wise],” she said, recalling sweeping the medals in Australia and California when they started in the 60s division. 

Each crew has to compete in multiple heats before reaching the finals. 

Kimball is the former athletic director at Molokai High School, while Martin, a longtime educator, was a crewmember on Hokuleʻa’s original 1976 voyage from Tahiti. Goodman, a doctor who retired after almost 30 years in the ER on Oahu, has lived on Molokai full time for four years after traveling back and forth to work at Molokai General Hospital part time for six years. 

“It feels really special coming from Molokai… I’m proud to represent our island and our community,” said Goodman, calling it “a huge honor” to travel with Martin and Kimball. “I’m so honored… to bring the best of Molokai out to our paddling community.”

Before leaving for London, Martin and Kimball will join the Wa’akapaemua Canoe Club masters 65 and 70s crews for a shot at the state championship this weekend. About 20 Molokai youth from Wa’akapaemua are also competing in the girls 12 division and boys 12, 13, 14, 15 and mixed 12 divisions, said Martin.

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