on: Friday, November 24, 2000
Paddling to save
By Lee Cataluna
It was an act of courage, strength, and, to hear witnesses tell it,
sheer stubbornness, that few of us could ever imagine.
1999, Donna Kahi Kahakui paddled solo from ĎUpolu
Point on the Big Island to Waikiki, covering 140 miles in three
when I say "solo," I donít mean that Kahi was all by
herself out in the open ocean. She had an escort boat captained by
Nainoa Thompson to make sure she stayed on course. She had a medic
to check her vital signs, look into her eyes when she got delirious,
and run an IV when she got to the point where she couldnít keep
liquids down. She had friends and supporters cheering her on,
telling her that she had it in her to finish, reminding her of why
she set out on this journey in the first place.
the paddling part, she did that all by herself. It was her strong
arms, her powerful back, and her huge spirit that made the crossing.
love Kahiís story because itís so full of lessons for the rest
of us couch-sitting, TV-watching, Cheetos-eating mortals. I like to
think that weíre all on journeys. Some are brave enough to set out
on their own. Others sort of get pushed out by the tide or pulled
out by the current.
matter if youíve never been on a boat in your life; at a certain
point, you understand on a very deep level what itís like to be so
far out to sea that you arenít even sure where youíre headed.
And sooner or later, you realize that though there are people around
to help point the way, youíre the only one with the paddle, and
you gotta do the hard work yourself.
helps to have a higher purpose.
purpose is to save the ocean. She founded Kai Makana (www.kaimakana.org)
an organization that puts muscle, money and leadership into marine
environmental issues. Itís a cause that burns so bright it keeps
her going when every inch of her body is yelling at her to stop.
This mission first led her to paddle solo from Maui to OĎahu
three years ago. Earlier this year, she paddled around OĎahu,
covering 113 miles in three days and nights, not sleeping much, not
eating much, hardly resting at all. The long-distance journeys are
meant to draw attention to Kai Makanaís work.
sets Kahi apart from the rest of us isnít just her athleticism or
her dedication to a cause. Itís her willingness to go through
these ordeals over and over again. After her grueling paddle from
the Big Island, the only thing on her mind as she touched the sand
at Waikiki Beach was, "What am I going to do next?" Next
for Kahi is always something bigger, something even more difficult.
time around is Tahiti, up the island chain from Papeete to Bora Bora,
a total of 200 miles, by invitation of the people of Tahiti.
doesnít realize the lessons sheíll share will go far beyond
stream restoration, debris removal and water-quality monitoring. She
doesnít quite see how her brave voyages are inspiration for a