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Dana Outrigger Canoe team heads to South American Championships
By Steve Breazeale
The six-member team of Dana Outrigger Canoe paddlers are excited about the new hats and shirts they will be taking with them to South America next week.
Standing on the sand of Baby Beach in the Dana Point Harbor, their large outrigger canoe hoisted up and ready for transport, they talk about how cool this year’s designs are. The outline of California, with a red star highlighting Dana Point’s spot on the Golden State, is embroidered on the side of the cap.
Their new shirts feature the American flag alongside the flags of countries they will be competing against in a few short days. The flags of Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina and a few more line the backs of the shirts.
The Dana Outrigger team will be representing not only that small, red star and the Golden State when they travel to Lima, Peru for the South American Canoe Championships. They’ll be competing for the entire United States as the country’s only representative in the field.
The Dana Outrigger team will paddle against some of the best teams in the world off the shores of Lima on Saturday, Nov. 18.
The local team competed in the event last season and placed fourth overall. While they aren’t technically eligible to compete for the top prize (this is a South American competition after all), the Dana Outrigger crew is feeling confident with its chances at a top-3 finish.
The team includes John Skorstad, Bryan Pesartic, Dave Brosowski, Gerald Montes, San Juan Capistrano resident Ray Owen and Manny Barela. The six-member group ranges from age 34 to 60. All of them are devoted paddlers with multiple years of experience.
The group has been training nonstop since September, logging at least 25 miles together in a large, 400-pound canoe. When they are not training together, each paddler sets off on one-man canoes to log extra work, Pesartic said.
They are going to need to be in synch and in shape come next Saturday.
The race in Peru will be nearly 15 miles long and will be out on the open ocean. The Dana Outrigger group will land in Peru on Friday, find a boat to borrow for the race, learn the course and be ready to compete by Saturday morning.
Pesartic identified the teams from Tahiti, Easter Island and Brazil as their toughest competition. Dana Outrigger finished fourth overall behind those three countries, respectively, last year.
The addition of Montes, the group’s steersman who has over a decade of racing experience, and Owen, another experienced paddler who hails from Hawaii, gives this version of the Dana Outrigger team added depth.
“We got a little bit older with our crew but we have a lot more experience with this group,” Pesartic said. “Our speed has been averaging at least a mile quicker than last year. That could be the difference between winning and (fourth place).”
The group competed in the unlimited class at the high-profile Another Dam Race in Arizona on Nov. 4. While paddling in the 400-pounder against a field full of 100-pound canoes, Dana Outrigger placed fourth. Both Pesartic and Skorstad, the group’s oldest member at 60, indicated the finish was a tremendous effort and a good indicator of the team’s current strength.
“We’ve gotten so much better. It’s going to be interesting to see how we do in Peru. I think we’ll be rock-solid,” Skorstad said.
As evident by their excitement to show off Dana Outrigger swag, the group is looking forward to the social aspect of their now-annual trip. Last year, Dana Outrigger spent time swapping stories and mingling with their fellow paddlers from the other side of the world. Trading shirts, hats, and even paddling techniques, is a huge part of the event.
“It’s a sport where all these countries come together. It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Pesartic said. “Everybody is doing the same thing and we love what we do. (Outrigger paddling) is a big passion for everyone there.”
Following the race, the Dana Outrigger group will travel to Cusco, Peru to hike Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and Rainbow Mountain to soak up as much culture and fun as possible.