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Roseville couple finds their stroke

The Greens compete in outrigger canoeing
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Sometimes it's so cold out the paddlers find themselves scraping ice off the seats of their canoes.

Other times, they're roasting under the hot sun on a summer afternoon. Either way, they don't stop - literally. They paddle their outrigger canoes several miles around Lake Natoma multiple times a week for practice. In the spring and summer, they do this for competitions.

"Pretty much, rain or shine, we paddle. We stop at lightening," said Roseville resident Kim Green.

She and her husband John Green are members of Hui o Hawaii of Sacramento, an outrigger canoe club established in 1971 and based at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in Gold River. This is also a cultural club and some members participate in luaus, dances and local festivals.

But for the Greens, they're all about the paddling. John Green, 63, joined the club about 20 years ago and brought his wife along nearly a decade ago. She'd been a stay-at-home mom, but her kids were old enough that she felt she could enjoy a hobby of her own.

"They put me in a race boat and I was hooked," Kim Green, 55, said. "Competition is fun."

She knows all about the competitive sprit from her husband, who also does Ironman triathlons and races cars.

"You can't even walk the dog (with him), it's a competition," she said.

More than two decades ago, John Green was out on Lake Natoma when he learned of outrigger canoeing.

"They were looking for more paddlers and asked if I wanted to try it and I've been stuck ever since," he said.

Now he's an instructor and at the aquatic center three or four days a week, paddling 5 to 10 miles each time. He's also competed in the Va'a World Sprints twice and goes to Hawaii annually to race in the prestigious Molokai Hoe from Molokai to Oahu.

The Greens, who have lived in Roseville for 25 years, were at the aquatic center on a recent June evening with several other members of Hui O Hawaii. They estimate the club has 75 to 100 members. The average age: 50 years old. Some men are in their 70s.

"Our older guys love to race the young guys," Kim Green said.

The club has advanced/intermediate practice twice a week and recreational two days a week. The Greens are advanced paddlers.

"So we go fast and hard," Kim Green said.

Each canoe seats six paddlers - there are single canoes, too - and athletes rotate positions. John Green is typically the steersman. He is also sometimes the strokes person, responsible for setting the pace.

"Whoever shows up (to practice), we just throw them in the boat. Women and men paddle together at any level," John Green said. "We mix it up and keep it competitive, and we do really well."

They move briskly through the water, passing river otters, heron hatcheries, geese and even deer swimming across the lake.

Hui O Hawaii recently participated in a race with 19 clubs and came in second place overall in the small club division. They competed in eight events and medaled in all of them. For John Green, most of the fun comes with beating the much-younger racers.

"I like, at my age, giving the young guys the competition," he said. "That's part of what keeps me going and we're going to keep paddling until we can't. It's better than sitting on the couch eating bonbons."

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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For more information about Hui O Hawaii of Sacramento, visit http://www.huiohawaiisacramento.org/.