Paddling for a Cause

Canoe club heads out on 100-mile journey

Kerri Allen 4

A local sports club has partnered with the North Carolina Coastal Federation to complete a 120-mile journey with the goal of advocating for a clean environment.

This week, the Wrightsville Beach Outrigger Canoe Club (WBOCC) began its trip up the North Carolina coast as part of the project “We the Water.” On Wednesday, the crew began the first leg of the project, which is slated to run for three years with the goal of paddling the entire state coastline.

The initiative aims to advocate for clean water, empower local communities, and bring awareness of contamination.

On Wednesday morning, a crew of paddlers left Sunset Beach at 9 a.m. en route to Southport with stops at Holden Beach and Oak Island. On Thursday, the crew will travel 32 miles from Southport to Wrightsville Beach, and on Friday head out to New River Inlet. On Saturday the journey ends at Bogue Sound. The team can be tracked in real-time at this website.

There will be stops throughout the journey at different spots including reserves and state parks where the public is welcome to join. To view the full tentative schedule, click here. There will also be a Rave for the Waves fundraiser on Friday at N.Sea Oyster Company in Surf City from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday.

“Outrigger canoeing is a connection to the water like no other,” North Carolina Coastal Federation Southeast Regional Office Manager and WBOCC board member KERRI ALLEN, said in a press release. “I cannot think of a better way to tell the story of our coast than from the bow of a canoe and how we can all make a difference in protecting and restoring the place we call home.”

WBOCC practices year-round and competes in races all across the country. The group plans to complete its paddle up the North Carolina coast with additional legs in 2023 and 2024.

To learn more about the project and its mission, WILMA spoke to WBOCC president GINA MARTIN ahead of the trip.

WILMA: What motivated Wrightsville Beach Outrigger Canoe Club to partner with the Coastal Federation for this project?
Martin: “As part of the outrigger tradition that is from French Polynesia and then brought to Hawaii, that includes a spiritual element that includes, being a steward of the environment, making sure that where we love to paddle and where we love to spend our time and lives is clean and protected. There’s respect for the ocean. So that’s the foundation of Outrigger Paddling and one of our longtime members and someone on the board, Kerri Allen works for the Coastal Federation. So she’s been able to further influence our club in a positive way in that regard. We have what’s called in Hawaiian:  mālama o ke kai and that’s protecting your environment, and cleaning your ocean. We will walk along the living shoreline and clean and things like that. So, Kerri is really the catalyst for all of this.”

WILMA: How did WBOCC prepare for this event?
Martin: “There’s probably 12 to 14 total participants, six of them will do the hardest legs. There are different types of races in outrigger. One is called a change race. That’s where you have six individuals in a canoe; the canoes are 45 feet long. So, you have six individuals in a canoe paddling, you have a support boat near you that have maybe three other members. The canoe is moving down the waterway and the coach will say next change, for example, ‘two and four out.’ So, the people in the support boat will have jumped into the water and they’re treading water. And then the people in the canoe hear this change, they jump out. So, they’ll jump out on the right-hand side. And then the other two in the water treading water will grab the canoe as it’s going by, pull themselves in the canoe, grab their paddle, and continue like nothing happened. So that is amazing.

A change race takes endurance conditioning strength, so these people not only have learned, with different clinics about our environment through Kerri Allen and the Coastal Federation over these last months, but they’ve also learned outside of the canoe, weightlifting, they have been conditioning, and paddling long distances. It is truly amazing. At that point they are athletes.”

WILMA: Advocating for clean water and protecting the environment is a big mission for you WBOCC and the Coastal Federation. Do you have any advice for people who, aren’t going to be paddling for many miles but would also like to keep their communities clean and advocate for clean water?
Martin: “My advice is just to get out in your community and find these particular groups there’s always a beach cleanup. There’s always something going on with the Coastal Federation. We need to protect where we live. I mean, it’s such an amazing place to be. We’re very lucky, we need to keep it clean.”

WILMA: Can you talk about the fundraiser event happening?
Martin: “N.Sea Oyster Company is sponsoring the event on Friday, September 16 at their facility. People can buy tickets, they can see the outrigger canoe, they can learn about what we do. They can learn about North Carolina Coastal Federation. And people with N.Sea Oyster Company can teach us about what oysters do for our environment. It’s going to be fun. There’s going to be live music, food, and it’s going to be a fundraiser, but it’s also going to be educational.”

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Categories: Health