A Band Of Braddahs… With paddles in hand, We Can.

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The 2018 Crew from left to right: Kevin Ledesma, Jerome Kalama, Tom Guerin, Wendall DeVera, John McCandless, Pia Aluli, Lex Rass, Frank Zajac, Mark Kazgerten Biggie Lara, Missing Lou Dionese & Tomas Schlotman.

 

“You want to go fast, go by yourself.  You want to go far, go together.” -Wendall DeVera

The Golden Masters of the Molokai Hoe Canoe Paddling Championship has been won four out of five years by a group of paddlers from Maui, in their 60’s plus that said: “We go try do the Molokai for the hell of it.”

That was 2014 and was last minute thing.  They won their division without knowing.  In 2014 when they finished that race, they thought that the other 60’s had finished the race before them.  The team had taken their canoes up off the beach.  As they unrigged their canoe, they heard the names of the other 60’s they were competing against being called out. To their surprise they won their division.  “Not bad for throwing our team together during the long-distance season.”- words of Wendall DeVera who paddles for the Hawaiians from “The Valley Isle, “Maui.

They won the following year 2015.

In 2016, losing by one-minute to a mainland team was disappointing, a bit disturbing but not a distraction.  The loss in 2016 produced a mind-set for the crew to get-down -get up- get going and let’s get with it!  Throughout the 2016 paddling season it was, no give up, no give in, and No Give Excuses. Just bring it and give it all you got!  It wasn’t how much you have to do, but how much you got in you!!  2017, the braddahs’ did it again with their third win.  Hana Hou!

What I like about what they did after the 2016 loss was their decision to go for it trying to make it happen again.  I feel that my brother Wendall in a “small-kine way”, had to prove something to himself and he knew it would take the rest of the crew to help him out.  My brother had hurt his right shoulder during 2016 race when he was getting off-and-on the canoe for the exchange. Still he continued the course with his crew finishing with second-place.  Losing and losing by one minute and coming in second is just as hard as coming in last.

But having his crew share praise, support and positive notion to do it again (2017) gave Wendall a deeper sense of who he had – a band-of braddahs to go to “war” with him again.  This comradery of men in his crew made me think back when Wendall left Honolulu airport to fly over the Pacific Ocean to be part of a team that was doing something far beyond that of winning a race.

The year 1968

The place is Vietnam. My brother is now among a band-of-brothers who are their fighting a war that would be, eventually lost. A loss that is not contributed in soldiers giving up or being beaten by a better army. To me it was a place my brother and hundreds of others were sent, and all proudly served till the end of that war.

The causalities are many and the memories are ongoing for those that came back after the war. This part of Wendall’s life created a silent embodiment that carried over for the next forty-plus years.

Wendall’s army unit left before him so he had to fly overseas alone.  Our mom stayed with him until he boarded his flight and just before he did mom looked at him and told him, “You Stay Strong…”

Coming back home to Honolulu, Oahu, my brother decides to go over to Lahaina, Maui where our older brother Moses was living and where I decided to go after high school.

MAUI. The time 1971 and the living was way different from Honolulu.  Talk about having space to move!

IMUA!

My oldest brother Moses at that time was living on Maui for five years and was considered a good free-diver – not the best but good enough to one of the best.  Living in Lahaina the ocean beaches were many and close by.  For me at that time living on Maui I swam, surfed and went bodysurfing.  No matter what island you live on, each beach has that special feel about it.  For those who go into the ocean constantly, from three times a week to everyday they have a relationship with the ocean and the land its waters touch.  Each person has a connection, a history but better yet their own story that keeps ongoing. 

Wendall started paddling in 1972 For the past forty-six years, and I could be off, he has devoted time, patience, and aloha to his paddling and to the paddling community on Maui.  Wendall also has the only paddling store in Wailuku, Maui on North Market Street in town.  Marcella, Wendall’s wife runs the store but Wendall is close at hand (more like the next room) when questions arise about paddling or which type of equipment is best for the type of paddling one does.

Through all of this, there was a “dark side” that my brother was living with…

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I asked Wendall to share this because there are many people who have to cope with PTSD which does not only arise from military obligations.

Here, Wendall in his-own-words will share briefly the transition from The Vietnam War to Maui; the start of his paddling, PTSD, his crew, Molokai Hoe races and the opening of Tri Paddle Maui.

 

“I first paddled an outrigger canoe in 1972 but I just did it as a past time not realizing how much paddling and being on the ocean would have an impact on my life. 

In the early 70’s I still remember other activities that caught my curiosity and interest or was introduced to trying “something.” Having fun, drugs and alcohol were my interest at the time.  I took those interest as just being young and not knowing better to where it carried over for 20 years.

I started paddling again 26 years ago and started one man paddling about 20 years ago.  I found that I liked paddling a 1-man canoe but did not realize at the time why I liked it so much.

There was something different, but good about being on the ocean. No matter how many times I went paddling it was always new and a great sense of freedom would come within me. Everything that I could see, hear, smell created feelings of being open and connected to the sky and ocean.

Strangely when I was on land, I found it difficult at times and to some point annoying and disturbing that I didn’t feel right about myself?

 

As it was mentioned earlier, I am a Vietnam war veteran, having served 3 tours of duty in Vietnam.  I got discharged from the Army in November of 1971.

8 years ago (2010) I discovered that I suffer from PTSD.  For over 40 years I suffered with PTSD, without knowing that it was part of my life.

But the real story is not the PTSD I suffered from, but what helped me cope with PTSD.

 I never realized how much PTSD had made me a loner.  That is one of the reasons why I loved paddling a One-Man Canoe. Being on the ocean had a great effect on me, taking and using what the ocean gave me, syncing myself, my canoe and paddle as One. 

 

After finding out I had PTSD I went regularly to a Therapist.

Listening to my past experiences my therapist brought back up my days of drug and alcohol use.

As she explained “those self-induced acts were a way of me “masking” or sedating myself from what it was I was feeling PTSD.” To hear that from her took away every guilt feeling I had from doing it!

After sharing with her my experience from paddling in my one-man, she suggested that paddling was probably helping me cope with my PTSD.  When I asked how she said, “when you are out there on your own you are using a lot of adrenaline and adrenaline can be a driving force suffering from PTSD.” 

 

That is probably the reason I can go so hard when I am by myself. I am almost like a masochist, when it comes time to work out on my own.  Instead of “building myself up” I was actually “beating myself up.”

Paddling slow, I have a for-real connection with myself and my surroundings while on the Ocean.

But on the other hand, I also love to go slow which is from studying Tai Chi.   I have Paddled off and on for over 40 years and have practiced Tai Chi for that same amount of time and both those activities has help me cope with PTSD.  I have come to realize that in this point of my life from paddling and Tai Chi I am still the same person with the same body practicing both on the ocean and land.

 The other significant factor that has contributed to my coping, is my wife Marcella who is my best friend, confidant, and my Beastie (endearing to me.)  Marcella encourages me to do things that help me cope, but she has the full understanding of what I go through and she is their every step of the way.   When I start getting grumpy, she just looks at me and says “maybe you should go paddling.” Just to hear Marcella tell me that, already takes away the uneasiness and settles me as if I was already on the water paddling. I realize that even with my marriage, going this far, is making it happen together.

As for my paddling braddahs, hearing about my PTSD?  When I told them, their reaction was no-reaction.  It was silent and in that silence, I immediately knew, what they were telling me – “WE go padddle.”  I knew this because that is the very same way we practice.  We no talk, we no speak, we know what we should be doing to make the canoe move as “one”.  It is through the crew’s silence that we can listen how we are paddling, feel how the canoe is moving and what the ocean is giving us.  It is with this crew, in the canoe, there is no “seat” for PTSD.

Tri Paddle MAUI…for the love of paddling and the paddlers is why Marcella and I started the business. We try to make sure we can provide the best products for whatever is needed. But not only that. I try to include up to date information on what is going within the world of paddling and share experience from not only myself but the “more experience” watermen out there. And that’s free.

Like I mentioned above, I love paddling by myself, but over the past 5 years I have been associated with what I like to call a band of Brothers (paddlers).  I am very fortunate to be surrounded by these gentlemen who have become very good friends and great team mates, we all share the same motto when we paddle, use what the ocean gives us.  Adapt, Adjust, Relax & Paddle.  Biggie, Lou, Johnny Mac, Pia, Adolf, Lex, Jerome and I have been together for 4-5 years.”

Wendall talks about the past four years and this 2018 Molokai Hoe race

…which was special – “The Band of Braddah’s” won it again!

“5 years running – four 1st, one – 2nd, our Hawaiian Masters team 60 to 70 years of age won our division at the Molokai Hoe Outrigger canoe race 2018. We started out a little younger 5 years ago, but us Old Farts won again this year and we had the fastest time that we ever have had, 5:52 and change. Just goes to show, age does not determine your health, You Do!!!!

We started almost 11 months ago training, and it paid off.

John MacCandless, Biggie Lara, Lou Dionese, Pia Aluli, Wendall DeVera, Jerome Kalama, Lex Brass, Frank Zajac, Mark Kasberten, Kevin Ladesma, Tom Guerin, Tomas (replacement for injured reserve Lance Cushenberry). 1st 5 names on the list have been doing Molokai for 5 years straight, Adolph Helm (injured this year), Lex and Jerome 4 years. All of us great friends and team mates. 41 miles of ocean and we all tried to use everything she gave us. We all adapt, adjust, relax and paddle.

 As you have read the men that I have paddled with for the past five years have done pretty well in our Molokai crossings.

 

The 2018 Crew from left to right:
Kevin Ledesma, Jerome Kalama, Tom Guerin, Wendall DeVera, John McCandless, Pia Aluli, Lex Rass, Frank Zajac, Mark Kazgerten Biggie Lara, Missing Lou Dionese & Tomas Schlotman.

Pia (70), Biggie (69), Wendall (68), Lou (67) and Tom (65), will have to grow up next year and move to the 65 division.

Oh well. Like they in school: “Da Seniors Rule.”

———————-

(Mikey’s Thoughts/Words)

There is a saying: “Each can Teach.” I feel that we learn through encouragement and that each of Wendall’s crew members does this “authentically.” These braddahs don’t just say it, they express it – “with plenty Aloha!”

Outrigger canoe paddling is about being One, this only happens when the six men or women breathes, strokes, and movements give a feeling of being one with each other, the canoe, the ocean’s soul and the sky’s blessings.   

It is what makes the “band of braddahs” not the best…just hard to beat!

And when there is “effort” coming from and through six braddahs that no care win or lose, but only to bring and give their best!

 

To close this story out, my brother’s love and the way he practices paddling might have come from our mother?

So, how’s this?

Mommy was both father & mother raising us.

Remembering when things got difficult or when mommy faced her adversities – what would she say? “I Paddle My Own Canoe!” …and she did this with the courage. strength and love of taking us for the ride.

Am I right or am I Right?

Mahalo’s & Aloha!

 

THE OCEAN TEACHCES & HEALS

The Ocean can teach us…It Will.

The Ocean will heal us…It Can.

The Ocean always gives us…It Does.

 

The ocean can teach us that our mind’s thoughts

shift consistently like the waves that come upon the shore.

It brings changing impressions and washes it away.

It shows that our condition of our human-nature

can be like the changing of the tide’s highs and lows.

 

The ocean will heal us by being in or on the water,

too feel the power that renews our energy,

It opens to clear away our body’s tensions and obstructions.

It shows that our condition of living

can be like the currents and flow for direction.

 

The ocean helps us to compare

that its life of wordless motions

Can teach and will heal us.

By a self-realization

That our life of words and actions

only express our very own waves of emotions.

We navigate our body and mind through our inner ocean’s condition.

 

 

From fishing, diving, surfing and canoe paddling,

The Hawaiians knew,

The Ocean is more than just a place to get wet.

It is also a place to get wits…Naturally.

Mikey q. 1999