Life's lessons learned from paddling
ANYONE ... no, actually everyone ... who has ever paddled in a six-man outrigger knows what Sam Mokuahi meant when he said: "Being in a canoe is more than about paddling."
Mokuahi, whose funeral services are this morning at Maunalua Bay, believed that paddling was a metaphor for life. He felt that everything that happened in the canoe could be applied to the rest of one's world, whether it was in the relationships with family and friends, the work place or with strangers.
It's all about the trust. That you trust others will do the right thing and they trust you to do the same.
Applying that theory to paddling is easy. Paddlers trust the steersman to make the right decisions, to take the right course, to stay out of dangerous situations.
But for the canoe to go anywhere efficiently, it takes everyone working together for the common good and for a common goal. Paddlers trust No. 1 to set a consistent stroke and No. 1 trusts the rest of the canoe to back him or her up.
Paddling -- whether it is in a race, during practice, or just for fun -- is an odd blend of confidence and humility. You have to believe you're good enough while at the same time knowing all it takes is one freak wave ...
What makes paddling so unique is its ability to bring together people from varied walks of life, from all social, educational, cultural and financial classes. At any given time a canoe can be made up of a politician, a gardener, a Ph.D., a minister, an elementary school teacher, an archaeologist.
Regardless, sharing time on the water makes paddlers feel like family ... even if it's just a brief hanai relationship.
Yesterday's paddle off Lanikai reminded me of that, of two women who passed away last month, both of whom I feel honored to have shared time with in a canoe. Archaeologist Helen Leidemann was on my Novice B crew for Pohai Ke Aloha and elementary school teacher Amy Bruhl was with us at Hui Pakolea.
The two approached the sport differently, Leidemann very gently and Bruhl, a former collegiate rower, with aggressive passion. And that is OK because paddling brings together different spirits.
That will also happen today at Maunalua Bay for Mokuahi's service, with paddlers joining hands with military personnel, woodworkers and politicians. It's not surprising that kahu Billy Mitchell is coming from the Big Island to preside and Kamehameha Schools president Michael Chun is giving the eulogy.
Mokuahi had two requests for his funeral: that the gathering be held outside, in case there were those who didn't feel comfortable in a church, and that everyone who came be fed.
The family anticipated 1,500-2,000 to attend. There likely will be double that.
"Where you and I have acquaintances, my dad had friends," Mokuahi's daughter, Sam Moikeha said. "He actually took the time to nurture relationships."
One of his closest ones was with the late great waterman Kala Kukea. Today, Mokuahi's ashes will be placed near those of Kukea's, off the reef at Maunalua.
Paddling is more than being in a canoe.