How a team’s personal sacrifices for an extreme race has transformed lives.

Aug 18, 2017 · 9 min read

Na Wahine O Ke Kai, the world’s most prestigious women’s outrigger canoe race will see top women’s crews from around the world, competing in a 42 mile race from Moloka’i to O’ahu. Talis Crew sat down with head coach James Gonzales a few weeks back, to get his thoughts about the race and now its a great honour to share the stories of the mighty SDOCC women’s crew.

Please tell us your names, have you competed and how many times you competed at Na Wahine O Ke Kai.

Carrie Land: I did the race in 2007, four months after having my second child.

Jacquie Atherton: I’ve have competed 5 times.

Megan Welsh: I’m yet to do the race

Juliette Orozco: This will be my first crossing!

Christine Harris: None yet

Please describe how you feel about Moloka’i the race? Why is it important to you?

Carrie: This year, I’m not paddling in the race. I’m going as the change coach, and photographer to support the women who are racing. Even though I’m not paddling in the race, I really wanted to go with the team. Having grown up in Hawaii and being a paddler for 18 years, I understand that this is “the” race to do. I wanted to be a part of it in some way. It’s important for me because it’s important for our club.

In training for this race, all of the women, not just the ones doing this race, have really pushed themselves to paddle better and train harder. I love SDOCC and am so happy to see it thriving.

Jacquie: Moloka’i to me is about the true meaning of paddling and bringing together so many competitors from all around the world to compete, support and honour this amazing sport. There is no other race that I can say has this feel of all paddlers becoming one on the beach before we head out to take on one of the biggest challenges on the water.

Megan: Honestly, this race wasn’t even on my radar, purely because it is so intimidating. The fact that this race is designed just for women however, spoke to me.

Women from all over the world will travel to Moloka’i to race this channel. It’s both empowering and inspiring. Yes it’s a race and yes we are a competitive group of women, but there is something very uplifting about turning to other women, whom without paddling would never have come into your life. You go through this intense journey and push each other past the pain to feed off of each other’s strengths, not just in your own canoe but in the canoes surrounding you to cross the finish line.

Juliette: The Moloka’i crossing is just one day that exhibits months, if not years, of hard work and dedication. It’s the one day when women from all over come together to compete and celebrate our strength. Moloka’i is important to me because it’s an opportunity to push myself mentally and physically and to learn from new water with a new crew.

Christine: The Moloka’i race is a well-known and respected race in Hawaii that SDOCC has chosen to participate in. We have been working hard all year toward this goal. I love physical challenges and working as a team. This race will be the final one of a tough and fun 2017 season.

What helps to give you confidence in your preparation for Moloka’i?

Carrie: Coach James Gonzales and my teammates give me confidence in preparing for any race. James is constantly pushing me to my limit. Just when I think I can’t do any more, James demands more, and I do it. I surprise myself, and this gives me confidence.

Jacquie: My teammates, my coach and having a positive attitude towards my fellow paddlers. I’ve had the opportunity to do this race numerous times before and this gives me the knowledge of what it takes to prepare myself physically, mentally and emotionally for anything that may happen during this race.

Megan: The experience in my boat. The majority of this crew has years of experience on the water, but what gives me the most confidence is everyone is eager and open to learning more about this sport. We continue to learn from each other.

Juliette: My teammates. We’re holding ourselves and each other accountable. There’s a lot of trust involved with a big race. We are all able to trust that everyone is putting in the work and carrying their weight.

Christine: I am confident our team will do well in Molokai because we have been preparing so diligently. In addition to 3x/week OC6 work, we have OC1 workouts, circuit training, erg time trials, and OC1 time trials.

Seeing my teammates dedicate their time and effort to preparing for the race is motivating and makes me feel ready for the challenge.

How do you think competing in this race will help you generally in your life?

Carrie: Even though I’m not actually competing in this race, training hard and competing in any race gives me confidence. It’s not just confidence in paddling, but carries over to a self-confidence in all aspects of life.

Jacquie: This will be the first time racing with my own team and doing it with 10 paddlers. The training allows me to be healthier, be a team player and push myself to a new level. I can take this forward in my life work and how I interact with others moving forward.

Megan: Committing to this race has already been a huge game changer in my life. At the beginning of the season I was struggling with severe depression and I relapsed to living with an eating disorder. My depression became so debilitating that daily tasks like laundry and grocery shopping became a challenge. When I heard we would be having a women’s crew represent our club at the Na Wahine O Ke Kai race and we would be competing for a seat, it was the last thing I thought I would be capable to accomplish. With the support from our coach, James, a couple close teammates, and therapy, I was able to build back my inner strength and believe this was something I could succeed in. Through training with the team I already believe that the preparation for this race has had a positive impact on my mental health and who I am as a woman. I am surrounded by women in the boat who empower each other both on and off the water, and that is a beautiful thing! I am grateful for this journey thus far and am excited to see the challenges we will face and overcome as a team during this race.

Juliette: In training for this race, I’ve been more conscious of my goals, and how everything I do on a daily basis is either in support of that goal or not.

Christine: This will be my longest canoe race. I have always enjoyed pushing myself physically and mentally, but my experience is usually in individual activities. I hope finishing this race will allow me to test my mental toughness, patience, and physical exertion.

What does your training program look like

Carrie: Right now I paddle three times a week. Sometimes I try to get an additional day in on my one man. On one or two of the days I’m not paddling I either run or do some sort of circuit/weight training.

Jacquie: I push hard on the off weeks before races and back it down the week of the race. I came into this season out of shape from going to school for a year and I’ve managed to push harder each week and back it down when needed. I’m cross training between paddling, yoga, weight training, aerobics, walking, bicycling, elliptical, hiking, sailing and circuit training. I work on getting in 10 to 14 workouts a week.

Megan: Our training program is brutal, but it’s strengthening us both physically and mentally. We practice three times per week and are expected to be putting in our own time on our oc1’s as well. Endurance, resistance, and sprint training are the focus of our oc1 training. Time trials on our one man’s has played a big influence on us getting a seat in this crew. Off water we are held accountable to complete timed circuits and rows, along with weight training. I also attend orange theory fitness once a week to give myself a mental break from having to think about my workout.

Juliette: Practice (paddling) 3x a week, and extra time on my OC1 when I can squeeze it in. Bodysurfing as much as I can now that the water has warmed up. Spin classes. I also attend an amazing local strength and conditioning gym, where I focus on building muscle, strength, stamina, and mobility.

Christine: Officially, we train OC6 three times per week, OC1 once a week, and weights/circuit training once a week. In addition, I incorporate cycling, hiking and yoga.

What will you have to sacrifice in your life to be able to compete and do the race successfully?

Carrie: I have two very active children, ages 10 and 11. I have missed being at countless baseball, softball and soccer games. I have also missed many social gatherings-birthday parties, girls’ night out with friends, and school functions. In a way, my family has had to sacrifice just as much as I in order for me to be at practices and races. I am so grateful for their support, especially my husband, who goes to all of our kids’ events when I can’t.

Jacquie: I’ve made the choice to stay part-time at my business. This has taken away from my income, however, I don’t feel it’s a sacrifice. I feel I’m honoured to be able to take the time to train and be a part of this team.

Megan: Sleep. I am a night shift labor and delivery nurse and finding the balance between sleep and training is challenging. Training usually comes first, unless my body is telling me otherwise, and then I listen to it. However, compared to the rest of my teammates I have it easy, I only have myself to worry about. The rest of my team consists of women balancing significant others, children, and families, all who are sacrificing a lot to be able to compete in this race. I look up to them and I’m grateful for all of the support that allows them to put in the time and energy to train for this race.

Juliette: Luckily, my social circle is mostly comprised of like-minded athletes who understand if I’m eating prepped food or not drinking while out at the bars. Other than that, dating is nearly impossible, and laundry and a clean room have become even lower on my list of priorities.

Christine: The biggest sacrifice is time away from my family. It is a delicate balance to split time between work, racing, and family. Shout out to my husband who leaves work early 2–3 times a week to allow me to head to the bay!

San Diego Outrigger Canoe Club (SDOCC) was founded in 1983 by Ex-Navy Seal Dee VanWinkle, and very quickly emerged as one of the most prominent Outrigger Canoe Clubs in San Diego, California. SDOCC has now developed into one of the most diverse clubs on Mission Bay, with members originating from not only San Diego County, but from all over America, Europe and the rest of the world. While our team consists of men and women whose ability level ranges from Olympic class athletes, to the recreational paddler, we all share the same love and passion for the sport of outrigger canoe racing and enjoy coming together, as an ohana. SDOCC prides itself on sending competitive crews to race both locally and internationally.

The Road 2 Moloka’i series is brought to you by Ocean performance wear Talis Crew.

Support the crew with these Supports Jerseys

Talis Crew wants to share the stories that make up this amazing sport. Read our latest campaign Road 2 Moloka’i, the world championships of Outrigger paddling. Now in it’s 65th year this race has a special place in the hearts and minds of thousands of competitors past and present.
Join us and share your story here.

See our performance wear at

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade