By Chris Smidt
The paddlers of the Konedobu Kanu Klab start arriving by PMV (bus), utes and on foot from 4:30pm for another training session. Jack, the Captain, is one of the first to arrive and he goes about supervising the launching of the outrigger canoes. They have a collection of ‘classic’ OC6s which are used 6 days per week, nearly every week of the year. Before long, the paddlers who have arrived in time line the dock, ready to be allocated a canoe according to the Captain’s orders. I am allocated #5 seat in OC6 ‘PMMI’ while Cedric, the Vice- Captain, takes his crew to ‘Trukai’. Both canoes leave the boat harbour with 500m warmup, followed by stretching. Anyone who arrives after 5:15 won’t be doing hard training today. They may get a seat in a boat with novice paddlers.
The canoes line up side-by-side. Jack throws a stop watch across to Cedric and we start a series of 30-stroke starts. After 5 starts, the crews are warmed up. Its 30 degrees anyway and there is a light drizzle so humidity is fairly high. We now start a set of five 1minute on/ 1 minute off sprints at 100% effort. A short break, then we’re into another two sets. The steerers call out to Miriam and Toua in Trukai, and Kea and Kone in PMMI to draw us into a turn so we can work back to the other end of the harbour.
Paddlers jump into the water to cool off and the Captain changes their positions. I go up to #1, and we set off on a 10 minute skill session with me filming both boats with my Sony activcam and calling out tips on stroke technique. We stop for a couple of photos with the sun setting over the Gulf of Papua behind us, then I move to #2 and we set off towards Hanuabada Village where the houses are built out over the waters of Fairfax Harbour.
Hanuabada is locally famous as being the home of weight lifting champion Dika Loa Toua who won Gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.