Wailua’s Puuwai Canoe Club Senior Masters women, with the assistance of two Namolokama women as well as women from Maui, Big Island and California won the gold in the 41-mile Molokai to Oahu out-rigger canoe race on Sunday, September 25.
The race, long considered the unofficial world championship of long-distance canoe racing for women, was held in less than ideal conditions. High humidity, hot temperatures and flat seas made for a tough crossing.
The Puuwai women, all of whom are over 50 years old, finished the distance in 7 hours 19 minutes and 50 seconds, to outpace the second place crew, Hawaiian Canoe Club, and the team who beat Puuwai last year: Lanikai canoe club.
Crew members included Lei Alapa, Judy Byfield, Susan Hoerner, Mary Pixler, and Joanne Woltmon, who were coached throughout the season by Ani Pursell.
Mary Ledward and Jean Obert of Namolokama joined the above women of Puuwai, along with Vanessa Weiss of Maui, Gladios Hoagland and Shay Bintliff of the Big Island, and Elizabeth Toro and Monica Jones of California.
Because Pursell was unable to make the crossing, coaching duties were undertaken by Californian Linda Dresbach and Montanan Cynthia Osborne, who manipulated the water changes to make the crew’s efforts feel much less strenuous.
“We were tired of being the bridesmaid and not the bride for the last two years,” said Pixler, who is a physician at Kalaheo Clinic.
Byfield, a Wilcox ER nurse, who stroked every other change during the crossing agreed: “We didn’t want another second place trophy.”
Woltman, a local veterinarian, who did most of the organizing for the crew, echoed “I just can’t believe it!” when presented with the beautifully carved monkeypod platter given to each crew member.
Hoerner, a graphic designer, remarked on how reassured she felt, being out in the ocean with the above medical professionals, along with Alapa, who is an RN; Obert, a Physician’s Assistant; Toro, an ObGyn physician, and Bintliff, an ER physician at KVMH.
Bintliff, affectionately known to the paddling community the world over as “Doc” who at 70 years old, completed her 25th Molokai channel race plans to compete until “you bury me with my paddle.”
The women of Puuwai invite women of all ages to come and join them in off-season practices on Wednesdays and Sundays at the Wailua River.