A women's team from the Lanakila Outrigger Canoe Club will compete Saturday in the U.S. Outrigger Championships to raise money for the Sarcoma Alliance.
The 23 women will race 27 miles from Newport Harbor to Avalon on Catalina Island in Los Angeles County, as part of Ocean of Hope (O2H), the alliance's biggest fundraising campaign.
Spector got involved with O2H four years ago. She recruited eight other women from the Lanakila club, which is based at Redondo Beach's King Harbor, also in LA County. That first year, they raised about $3,000. This year, they have raised more than $12,000 so far, not counting the money ($4,500 so far) being raised in a raffle for two paddleboards. (One board already has been awarded, but people can still enter to win the second.)
The women also raise awareness about sarcoma: They wear jerseys with the O2H logo, their escort boats carry O2H banners, and they register as Lanakila/Ocean of Hope.
The top photo shows the team at the Iron Paddling Championships in San Diego in June, where they took first place open and first overall. Team captain Aimee Spector is in the back steering. She is third from the left in the other photo, which shows the "team in the Cook Islands where we brought our O2H banner and spread the word throughout the South Pacific!" Aimee says. "We ended up medaling in two of our races also!"
When I first heard about the Ocean of Hope, I didn't really understand. I felt like Emily Litella: "What's all this about paddleboat races???" After I figured out what a paddleboard was, I still didn't get that O2H was a team, among various others, that competed in the Catalina Classic. I then didn't know what women in canoes were doing. Now I understand that O2H is a fundraising effort involving ocean sports, with team members participating in different competitions in different places.
"Just to clear it up," Aimee says, "the Catalina Classic is a paddleboarding race where individuals [paddle] 32 miles from the Isthmus on Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach Pier. Ocean of Hope started there and that has always been the flagship race/fundraising effort."
The outrigger race Saturday does not get the same fanfare because awards are given out on Catalina Island, with a much smaller audience, she notes.
"Just by getting involved we have touched the lives of people we may never meet," Aimee says. "I see O2H as an opportunity to open the paddlers' minds to giving back while doing something they love. Like being involved in any nonprofit, it takes dedication and commitment, which this team of paddlers already possesses. And the sport of outrigger paddling takes determination and perseverance, and that is what sarcoma survivors use every day to get through their journey."
I agree. Sometimes I feel like I was dropped in the ocean, fearing I would never make it to shore. The Sarcoma Alliance is my escort boat.
If you want to support the team -- and sarcoma patients -- click here. I just did, to thank the athletes for putting up with all my questions.
-- Suzie Siegel