Saipan Paddling Club eager to learn, improve

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THE Saipan Paddling Club continues to grow, thanks to its participation in off-island events.

Josh Andrew, Benusto Olopai, Kalea Andrew, Sylvia Taggart, Justin Andrew, Carter Aldan, Vince Manahane, Glenn Muna, Lorenza Aldan, Leo Tenorio, Gerlyn Libuano, and Victoria Camama during the October 2019 Micronesia Cup in Palau.  Saipan Paddling Club photo

Just last year, SPC made its way to Palau for the annual Micronesia Cup to compete against several teams from Guam and Palau in the men’s and women’s divisions.

“Overall it was a great experience,” SPC Coach Justin Andrew said. “Some of us were first timers in Palau and we were new to the annual Micronesia Cup race. That type of competition is just below the level of Micronesian and Pacific Games so it was a bit more relaxing kind of environment.”

He said off-island events “allow you to really network and meet new paddlers, make new friends and learn new skills.”

In July last year, the CNMI sent outrigger canoe paddlers to the Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.

“The CNMI sent two boys and two girls to represent us in the V1 outrigger canoe races,” Coach Andrew said. “One of the girls is Kalea Andrew, a member of SPC. The other girl and the two boys are members of the Napu Outrigger Canoe Club. Although only one SPC member participated, our club takes pride in every member’s accomplishments,” Coach Andrew added.

“Kalea performed exceptionally in the competitions as she bested five other paddlers in her heat and came in first place in the 500 meter sprints to secure her place for the finals. In the finals, with very stiff competition from the Pacific power houses Tahiti, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, and other strong islands in outrigger paddling, Kalea came in sixth overall. This is the first time that any paddler on V1 from the region (Guam, the CNMI, FSM, Palau) made a strong performance in the Pacific Games in the V1 outrigger race category. It marked a great milestone in our outrigger paddling program and we all look forward to improving our game at the next Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands in 2023.”

SPC is grateful for the opportunity to compete in numerous competitions.

“Many lessons are learned through these competitions no matter how small or insignificant they are,” Coach Andrew said. “The little things add up to make you a better paddling athlete than what you were a few days ago, or weeks ago or months ago. Outrigger paddling is a highly technical kind of sports. It’s a lifetime learning journey.”

For off-island competitions, however, SPC needs funding assistance. “As you know last year, the CNMI was going through the recovery phase and many people and businesses on island suffered from the typhoons that hit us,” Coach Andrew said. “Raising the needed funds was our number one priority and worry. When we worry, it affects our focus in training. But we trained well and we raised just enough funds. So I want to thank everyone who supported us in any way. Thank you all!”

SPC plans to compete in the upcoming Micronesian Cup on Guam. “It will be our biggest race of the year,” Coach Andrew said. “The CNMI Paddling Federation has yet to meet to set the local race calendar. We will convene soon to discuss this and other topics.”

Coach Andrew said SPC “has competed in most if not all of the local races including the Micronesia Cup. Some of our members have also been members of the CNMI National Outrigger Paddling Team that represents the CNMI in the Micronesian Games and the Pacific Games. On and off, the SPC teams have won and lost outrigger races locally and regionally, but we keep on training and pushing hard for better results all the time.”

He said SPC “also takes pride in giving back to the community by holding its first 5k fun walk/run last year in October to promote physical activity. SPC plans to hold the same event this year and will be announcing it for everyone and anyone interested to sign up.”

In addition, Coach Andrew said SPC “has partnered with IT&E in many activities including adopt-a-beach cleanup, painting the pavilions in the Kilili beach area and the Marianas March Against Cancer.”

He said through the “determination and commitment each SPC member brings to the table, there’s always time to make friends along the way. With warm hearts and open arms, the team welcomes everyone interested in paddling. Don’t be shy or afraid. Come down on the days the clubs are out and ask to try it out first. Not everyone is made to paddle so it’s best that you come down with an open mind and try it out first. Maybe give yourself more than once to try it out. There are different clubs that paddle, and you can try and contact any one of them. You can contact them via Facebook. The Saipan Paddling Club goes out Tuesdays and Thursdays after working hours from 5 p.m. to dark.”

Coach Andrew said the club “also coaches high school kids from different public and private schools. SPC takes time to teach the kids proper canoe paddling techniques as well as respect for the canoes, the environment, the ocean, paddlers and teammates.”

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