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Vance Hashimoto: Crossing the Ka’iwi Channel

Naim:
Some people think paddling across the Kaiwi channel sans rudder is crazy. What inspired you to take on the molo solo on V1?

Vance:
Luke and Makana raced rudderless the 2010 M2M (Maui to Molokai), and did well. That inspired me to race V1 in M2M last year , and after doing that race I thought I could handle 6 more miles for the Solo. I was trying to do all the winter series races rudderless this year, so the Solo seemed like the next step. Also, the tide was good for this years crossing. So no matter what the wind, I’d at least have the current on my side!

Naim:
What was the tide doing exactly?

Vance:
High tide at Hawaii Kai was 2:11 pm, and I finished at exactly 2:11 so it worked out great. I was getting pulled in most of the way.

Naim:
Nuts, the conditions setup just perfect for you, you must have friends in high places.
What was your plan and preparation going into the race?

Vance:
So I actually broke my V1 in half 2 months before the Solo so I didn’t have my own V1 to train with. Luckily my dad had a OC1 I could use, so I trained with that for about a month, and then Jasen Kaya let my use his V1  and Bill Oliver lent me his ama, which I’m very thankful for.

As far as miles, I was doing about 2 hours on weekdays, with a 3-5 hour paddle on the weekends during the last month. I tried to train for all conditions, head winds, surf, and side winds. I’d say strong side winds is probably the worst condition to paddle rudderless. The winds ended up being very kind to me during the Solo. Some tailwind would have been nice, but I was very lucky to have those light head winds. It made the crossing very manageable. It would have been a completely different story if we had the typical NE trade winds that everyone was hoping for.

Naim:
Having that slight headwind does help the V1. Another lucky strike.

Did you have a course strategy?

Vance:
vance-courseMy game plan was start easy and slowly build into the race, don’t bonk. I was also really scared of cramping up, so I did not want to push too hard in the beginning. This plan worked pretty well. I felt like I was slowly working through the pack the entire race, and I didn’t cramp up. I was very happy with that. Our course strategy was to try and stick with the pack and not stray too far from rhumb line. We ended up going a little north, but I think most of the pack followed this course too. Here is a link to my GSP data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/507750792

Naim:
6.3mph average, nice job!
It must have been interesting to paddle alongside so many top paddlers, especially the Tahitian guns that showed up. Did you have a chance to pick up some techniques?

Vance:
That’s funny you ask. The only Tahitians I saw were Manutea and Maitai on the beach for a few seconds just before the race. I didn’t see any other Tahitians before, during, or after the race.

Naim:
I would think they would want to know who this guy paddling a V1 was, they must have been focused on their game.

So over all, how was the race for you? Can you tell us about the start, middle and finish?

Vance:
I was happy with the way I finished :)

The start was pretty standard, a little rolling action but clean. It got a little difficult when the escort boats started cutting through the pack to find their paddlers, especially when they were close to me. I got turned by a couple wakes but nothing too bad. Once the escorts found their paddlers the boat wake became easier to surf. As the race went on the boats spread out and there was less wake to surf, just upwind paddling. The water was pretty calm until we got a long the wall. The wall was pretty choppy with all the bounce back and boat wake and I was having a hard time surfing and just maintaining a glide. When I got to Portlock point I went wide round the reef. I got that far, so I didn’t want to chance it in the break. I think I lost a spot or two coming into Hawaii Kai. I was having a really hard time surfing in. I don’t remember catching any bumps on the way in. I was pretty relieved once I hit the flat water and just did a final sprint to empty the tank. I was just stoked I finished without cramping up!

Naim:
You handled it really well, and I think we can all relate to the feeling of finishing a long run, but this crossing was extra special. Kaiwi Solo is a race that is hard to enter, hard to prepare for and hard to finish. You did all that and with a lot of unknowns involved.

Will you do it again?

Vance:
Yes, hopefully with some surf.

Naim:
What would you say is the biggest take home from this experience?

Vance:
I have so much more to learn.

Naim:
There is much to be said about “new mind” and how a students approach is applied to rudderless paddling. It is a constant learning experience. It reminds me of that Sunryu Suzuki quote “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything”.

Any advice to other paddlers considering V1?

Vance:
Just try it. Start out in conditions you are comfortable in, work up to bigger conditions. It’s all about having fun. In a v1, I feel more connected to the water, and I have a lot of fun trying to control the Va’a with just my paddle. I think it’s analogous to driving a manual transmission car. Now days, manual trans may not be the fastest, but some just prefer the feel and control of a manual trans and have more fun driving it, I know I do. When I’m surfing a rudderless there’s an addicting satisfaction I get that I do not get with a rudder.

Naim:
So you have more feel and control which translates to more enjoyment. Almost similar to an artistic expression. Cool stuff.

So Vance, whats in your sites now?

Vance:
My personal goal is to do Te Aito in Tahiti, I just need to save up enough vacation time first!

Naim:
Awesome! Well, we will try and rally to get you some support. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your experience. You did something that no one has done in a long time and should go down as a great accomplishment.

Any shout outs to people who might read this?

Vance:
I want to thank Lono from Makai Magazine for the race jersey and stickers, Kamanu Composites for finishing my boat in time, and my support boat/crew of Lori, Jasen, Kapuni and Jin for making the crossing as easy as possible. Mahalo!

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Photo Credits: Cory Nakamura & Jasen Kaya

2014 Kaiwi Solo – Vance on V1 – By Jasen Kaya

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