The Kai Aniani Crazy Paddlers compete this weekend New York's Liberty Challenge.
This Tampa Bay outrigger canoe team plans to complete the 15-mile course on the New York Harbor, East River and Hudson River in less than two hours.
Conditions created by the barges and urban traffic create new challenges. This team will be ready, thanks to their training out of the Clearwater Sailing Center.
Kai Aniani actually means "clear water" in Hawaiian.
"Anytime you feel that synchronization, it's an amazing cohesive feeling,” says crew member Cortland Reilly. "Especially when you have so many different personalities with different skill sets that are blending together and when everyone senses that, it really is a feeling you can't articulate."
Team Kai Aniani's carbon fiber boat weighs only 140 pounds. She makes handling an adventure. Crew member Lex Raas finds riding the waves the most exhilarating experience.
"When this boat picks up on a wave, you got a good team in the boat, it just rockets off. It's just an amazing canoe. When you see six guys out there with huge smiles you know you hit a homerun there. She's fantastic in the waves," Raas says.
Lex Raas shares his passion with his son Jean. Jean Raas is the Kai Aniani steersman, the toughest job on the canoe.
Jean calls the shots.
"I'm telling the crew, sort of keeping them in cadence, knowing when to push to get onto the bump and the waves and then watching each individual paddler in the canoe," he says.
So Jean has to stay on his dad quite a bit?
"Yeah, absolutely he's the worst," he laughed.
Lex jokes that their roles have been reversed.
"So it's quite fun. I've been telling my son what to do for a long time. Now he's telling me what to do so that's pretty cool," he says.
Paddling is a complete body workout. Team members of Kai Aniani push each other, even in practice. The races can be grueling, and no one wants to let the another team member down.
"Not only physically, mentally and verbally as well,” Reilly says. "We're a team that knows each other's strengths and weaknesses and we exploit both."
You can follow Kai Aniani's progress in the 2014 Liberty Challenge by checking the results at http://www.libertyoutrigger.org/
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