There's Been A Lot of Discussion About Tahitian Dominance...

Strategy before tactics.

To build a crew/crews to compete consistently against top Tahitians, Hawai`i-based OC paddling would first need to commit to long-term strategic investment.

Strategy is often embedded in systems; no different in this case. And systems create their own culture. This can result in significant challenges which can result in dislocation or clashes with existing, overlapping cultures.

Primo has set the bar high, but having a core of 5-7 Maui-based paddlers probably isn't a broad enough base to rise up to that next incremental level (except, perhaps, for Iron races); the way they've pulled in paddlers from elsewhere to complete their crews does not allow for the necessary consistency in training to reach the level the Tahitians are now attaining. Given their training obstacles, their results have been impressive over the past few years.

What Livestong is doing is commendable, applying more resources and building a BI core group. An important advancement. But...to reach the level of, say, Shell, Hawai`i-based paddling needs to push this direction further and make a long-term commitment.

In this model, each island would have its own Elite Team, with its own coaching and logistical staff. O`ahu would have a decided (theoretical) advantage of having more paddlers to draw from. The commitment requires year-round training together, on and off the water, in order to build physical and psychological fitness, cohesion, and toughness. This means some clubs might have to "give up" their best paddlers (perhaps they could come back for a few weeks at end of July and then race States).

(Note: I'm not necessarily advocating this system, just presenting a strategic direction. Go down this path, though, and there's a signficant cost. One example: it impacts the culture of the existing Club system [could one imagine, for example, a Lanikai without the Fotis from 1995-2005?)] Is it worth it? Is the ability to compete against a powerhouse like Shell worth the sacrifices entailed? Open question...)

On O`ahu, create a pool of 15-20 paddlers, with promising youth (16-22) integrated in and mentored up. Maui and BI with 10-12 paddlers. Numbers provide depth and competition; greater inclusivity can increase motivation while also offering opportunties (and opening eyes) for discovering talent that might otherwise be overlooked/excluded do to a variety of factors (sometimes personality-driven). Once the system is in place, then the actual tactics (built up from the training foundation) can be developed and implemented. But the key is year-round, phase-specific training which focuses on developing the core group.

If you create a performance-based system with the kind of credible strategic plan that can convince "investors" (broadly defined), then perhaps you can recruit the coaches and the financial/logistical support necessary to develop some of the tactics that will help take elite paddling in Hawai`i to the next level. Realistically, it may require up to three years to incubate such a model. Huge amount of discipline, commitment, and sacrfice (and patience) will be part of the deal.

Whatever the case, up to this point elite paddling in Hawai`i has nothing to be ashamed of, that's for sure. The results are impressive in light of the challenges: lack of resources to lay a strong foundation for training and competing; so many sports competing for top athletes; so many enjoyable distractions that contribute to the quality of life here; etc...

To be an elite athlete in any sport often entails sacrifices that take you away from quality of life activities. In some ways, you become obsessive about your training--about everything that can feed into your training and your competitive performance. This doesn't always create a healthy environment--either for you or those around you.

Is it worth it? Another open question.

In the end, even with signficantly upgraded sponsorships and/or "angel" support based on a better, strategically-driven "business" plan, there will never be a big pot to pay paddlers enough to make an appreciable difference in their ability to support themselves or their families. They will still be amateurs, though now with better resouces to support their training and racing.

So reaching the next level of success will come down to incredible individual commitment and sacrifice and passion (two-a-days, five days a week for most of the next three years, anyone...?...). There will be little tangible, extrinsic gain; the reward will instead be intrinsic, internally-tallied.

But now the difference would be positioning that energy within a system and a strategic framework that allows for inidividual and collective potential to be better integrated and then maximized.

Submitted by shaka the dog on Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:25pm



Right on, I see you've had some time to really break this down. But in Hawaii it always ends up being "IF ONLY"


#1 Tue, 10/09/2012 - 8:18pm


$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


#2 Tue, 10/09/2012 - 9:55pm


Awesome breakdown Shaka. I?m down with the movement!


#3 Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:08pm


Quick fix for the Molokai Hoe is to change the date of the race until after the football season. Then go out and recruit these 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old athletes and turn them into paddlers. No be manini, pay the extra insurance premium so they can race, acquire skills and gain the experience, when young, to compete with the best.


#4 Thu, 10/11/2012 - 12:05pm


Its just youth and solo paddling. Have you been in a 1man race with 700 on the startline and the under 20s dominate. $$$ can help you get to a race, But these young kids smoking on a 20-30km course on a 1man. Do you get much of that in hawaii.

with more than 30 paddlers that could win and more that 60 that could make the top 10. with that intensity in every race. your more than likely to become a better paddler.


#5 Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:36pm


No need so many words.

Depth and quality of gene pool.


#6 Thu, 10/11/2012 - 9:46pm


Yup. In USA the top 3 sports are football, baseball, basketball. Your best athletes focus on those three.


#7 Fri, 10/12/2012 - 8:26am


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