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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 4, 2010

Austin, McKee fastest in canoes


By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jimmy Austin

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Jimmy Austin and Jane McKee are not receiving paychecks right now, so the first-place trophies they received yesterday were quite rewarding.

Austin and McKee were the top paddlers in the one-person canoe (also called OC-1) divisions at the Kanaka Ikaika Bud Light State Championships paddling race yesterday.

Austin won the men's OC-1 division; McKee won the women's OC-1 division.

"I'm in an unfortunate work situation because of the economy," said Austin, 30. "But at the same time, that's allowed me to train the way I want to. I'm out there just about every day, sometimes twice a day."

Austin completed the 19-mile course from Waimānalo Beach to Kaimana Beach in 1 hour, 57 minutes, 42 seconds.

Strong winds made for challenging conditions in the first half of the race, but those same winds provided a relieving push for the paddlers in the second half of the course.

"Around Rabbit Island and Makapu'u, it was just insane," Austin said. "But once we got through that sloppy section, it was perfect."

Manny Kulukulualani, who recently started training with Austin, placed second with a time of 1:58:55.

"Me and Manny have been out there almost every day pushing each other, and I think that's really helping both of us," Austin said. "The results are paying off."

Karel Tresnak Jr. placed third with a time of 2:00:36. Tresnak, the dominant performer of solo paddling during the last decade, is making a return to the sport this year after taking last year off for personal reasons.

"I don't know if this is the same Karel we're seeing now," Austin said. "I think he's still working his way back. If he were to train and do things the way he was doing it before, he'd still be untouchable. We all know how good he is. So for me to beat him today under any circumstances makes me feel great."

Rounding out the top 10 were: Aaron Napoleon, Simeon Ke-Paloma, Kaeo Abbey, Kea Pa'iaina, Luke Evslin, Tapa Worthington and Mael Carey.

McKee dominated the women's field, finishing with a time of 2:30:51.

Lori Nakamura was second, nearly six minutes behind, and Arlene Holzman was third.

"The start was tough, just because the wind was making everything crazy," McKee said. "I know Lori was next to me at Rabbit Island, but I didn't really see her after that, so I wasn't sure. I just kept going."

McKee said she was laid off from her job in 2009, and that allowed her to put in more paddling time.

"It really makes a difference, especially because I'm not exactly a young paddler," said McKee, 52. "It's important to get the rest, that recovery time, and I've been able to do that more this year."

Coincidence or not, both Austin and McKee used a "Pueo" model canoe from the Kamanu Composites company.

"I can't say enough about it," McKee said.

Austin added: "It's a personal preference, and you can argue that it's more about the paddler than the boat. But a lot of people are putting in way faster times with the Pueo."

Yesterday's race was the last "warm-up" before the Steinlager Kaiwi Channel Solo OC-1 World Championship on April 18.

GAESSNER CAPTURES SOLO SURFSKI DIVISION

Yesterday's event also featured a division for solo surfski paddlers.

Stu Gaessner placed first in the men's division with a time of 1:59:34. Only a handful of experienced surfski paddlers entered, so Gaessner paced himself against the top OC-1 paddlers.

"I really hope more guys come out," said Gaessner, 48. "This was a great race and I'm happy with what I did, but I would have liked to see more guys out there with me."

Maggie Twigg-Smith was the first female to finish in 2:35:41.

The Moloka'i World Championships the ultimate race for surfkis is scheduled for May 16.