The ocean has a rhythm.
The ebb and flow of the tide, the buildup and crashing of the waves, the push and pull of the currents.
For six members of the Dana Outrigger Canoe Club, they’ll have to be in touch with that rhythm of the ocean and the rhythm of their fellow paddlers as they paddle more than 6,000 strokes at the 2023 International Va’a Federation World Distance Championships on Aug. 14 in Samoa.
The team of six—John Skorstad of San Clemente, Allan Horn of San Juan Capistrano, Tim Hamchuk of Laguna Beach, Duane Vroom and Greg Mount of Laguna Niguel, and Glenn Norwood of Tustin—will represent the United States in the six-man Master 60 division in the 16-kilometer race around Apia Harbor in Samoa. The Dana Outrigger team qualified by winning the U.S. Championships last year at Catalina Island.
The team of 60- to 70-year-olds will face competition from Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii, Canada, Germany and Brazil.
“We’re going up against the world’s best,” Hamchuk said. “It’s going to be pretty cool to see the different caliber of paddlers there.”
There is a varied amount of experience among Dana Outrigger’s six paddlers, from Horn’s 37 years paddling and several world championship trips to retired firefighter Vroom’s four years paddling. Despite any of those differences in paddling experience, every member of the group has some water sport background, and they’ve come together to form a working team.
“We’ve been practicing really well together,” Skorstad said. “You’ve got to find the right mix of people to put them in the right seats in the boat so things will work optimally. If you can get the boat running as finely tuned as you can, that’s a really good feeling.”
While some took up the sport for their health and others for the competitive spirit, that feeling of accomplishment is shared among them, as they all put in their amount of sweat equity into each outing.
“I think they’re all events that you take pride in,” Hamchuk said. “You’re experiencing it with five other people, and in some of the other stuff that we’ve done, like the Molokai Crossing from Molokai to Oahu, you’re out there with 12 guys swapping through on a 36-mile journey competitively. After you’re done, you’re so fulfilled that you’re able to accomplish this at this age. I look back at my dad when he was 62, and there’s no way he’d have been able to do this.”
That group experience is tantamount to the success on an outrigger canoe. Whether it’s that 36-mile Molokai Crossing, 16 kilometers in Samoa or a few laps around Dana Point Harbor, every member of the team has to be in lockstep with each other, feeling that rhythm from the crew and the ocean.
“You don’t really know your miles, because you’re not really gauging that,” Hamchuk said of the distance races. “You’re so in tune with the guy in front of you to make sure you’re not missing a stroke, because every stroke that you miss could be three or four seconds.”
Like the pioneering Polynesians in outrigger canoes thousands of years before them, traversing the same waters they’ll compete on in August, the members of the Dana Outrigger Canoe Club tap into that connection whenever they go out to paddle.
“The ocean is our happy place,” Vroom said. “We get to be out there and run with whales and pods of dolphin. It’s pretty spectacular, especially in the early mornings. It’s peaceful. It’s a very Zen-like feeling.”
Additionally, that spirit is evident around the world for members of the Dana Outrigger Canoe Club, as the sport has given them an outlet and connection while traveling. Members have contacted local clubs around the world like in Hawaii or South America and have invited to jump in the boat and paddle.
“Aloha spirit is worldwide, especially if you paddle outriggers,” Horn said. “It has that special ‘ohana’ meaning.”
The Dana Outrigger Canoe Club will meet the rest of the world with paddles on hand next month in Samoa.