Kailua’s Holzman still out in front
For a paddler who claims an inconsistent solo-canoe record in the past, Arlene Holzman has sure been able to sustain winning this year.
What: State Championships of solo paddling
Who: About 140 entries expected, to be spread across several divisions.
Where: 22-mile course from Waimanalo Beach to Kaimana Beach, and a 12-mile short course from Hawaii Kai to the same finish line.
How: The majority of the competitors will paddle in one-person canoes, but some will paddle in solo surfskis and others in two-person crafts.
In fact, the Kailua resident is undefeated on the Kanaka Ikaika season, convincingly taking the open women's long-course division in all four series races so far this year, including at the Oahu Championships two weeks ago.
Though her humility and reluctance for the spotlight won't allow her to consider herself a favorite in any race, with her recent string of results, she still has to be considered one for the series' state championships on Sunday.
About 140 entries are expected for the race, which will include divisions for men, a long course covering 22 miles from Waimanalo Beach to Kaimana Beach and a shorter 12-mile course from Hawaii Kai to the same finish line.
"I've always been out there, and I don't really know what's different (this year)," Holzman, 40, said. "(But) I haven't had very good luck in the last few state races. I broke an arm a few years back, had tactical errors in others -- just different things every year, and it never seems to be my year."
Until perhaps this one.
Though a few of the big names have yet to compete this season, the long and lean Holzman has won each of the Kanaka Ikaika races by no less than about 4 minutes, and by as much as nearly 10.
Moving from another institution to become an elementary-level teacher this school year at Mid-Pacific Institute has probably helped her at least a bit, she said. At her former school, Holzman also had a lot of administrative responsibilities, in addition to teaching. Now, she focuses exclusively on the latter, giving her more time to train rigorously -- and to recover.
Holzman paddles with the prestigious Hui Lanakila women's team during the six-person-canoe season, but has trained with the club's men for all five years of her solo career. Instead of worrying about the other women during the solo races, she puts her head down and tries her best to keep up with her training partners.
She is quick to also credit them, along with sponsorship from John Martin of Hawaiian Designs (who provides her canoes and entry fees), for her half-decade journey toward winning consistently.
"Because of them, I know where I need to be (to be successful), and that's my motivation," Holzman said.
Besides the states race, Holzman is entered in every other series and non-series competition in Hawaii leading up to and including the Molokai to Oahu race on May 20, which attracts an international field and is considered the world championship of solo paddling.
She expects paddlers, like last year's women's world champ, Dane Ward, and three-time former winner Lauren Bartlett -- both from Maui -- to start racing with her perhaps as soon as this weekend in preparation.
While Holzman says that these women and some of the other elite competitors "are much more experienced than I am," she has shown she can hang with them before, finishing a career-best third in the world championship in 2004.
"I'm just trying to train and get in as much different kind of ocean water as possible, paddling on different sides of this island to get as much experience as possible," she said. "I don't like (the spotlight). I love to paddle, and that's it. ... I've learned that in these races anything can happen, and it usually does. It's always anybody's race."