Story by Diane Haynes Woodward
I wanted to whine. My husband was pulling the truck up to the roadside beach parking, where we would soon unload our one-man canoes (well, one-woman in my case), and launch into the ocean for a paddle. “It’s windy,” I said, my euphemism for “I’m scared.” Jamie actually took a moment to consider, and then retorted, “It’s fine.”
Carrying our gear to the shore, we passed a longtime friend. “Should be a good paddle,” Grant commented. “I don’t want to go,” I confessed. “You’ll be fine,” he assured me. Hardly an endorsement—Grant is the same man who was on the boat with Jamie when they were nearly lost at sea in Tonga.
I looked at the rippling water with trepidation and hoped for a reprieve. But no. “This is the kind of day when you get in—and paddle straight out,” my husband advised, watching the waves for just the right moment. “Now!” I jumped in, and paddled hard, straight out.
No time to think, no time to stress, nothing to do but go. My little boat glided forward over the rollers, and finally into safety past the breakers. Turning my canoe parallel to the shoreline, I headed into the wind.
I had hoped for sunny skies and smooth water, but today was dreary and overcast; the waves chopped and splashed in my face. What if the wind gets worse? I thought. What if I huli (tip over)? Soon Jamie caught up with (and quickly passed) me. I followed drifting into that rhythmic meditation that slowly, surely, takes me out of my head . . . and into the connective spirit of the islands.
I found myself smiling. I began to think of my parents, my aunts, uncles, grandparents—all the old ones who have passed. I wondered about their struggles, their constant movement forward into the wind. I felt a sweet calm in their presence. Ahead, Jamie had stopped in wait for me. “Maybe we should turn around now,” I suggested hopefully, once I had caught up to him. “No way,” he said. “Once you turn around it will be minutes to get back—the easiest paddle of your life!”
“Not if the wind changes,” I grumbled. “It won’t,” he promised. “It always changes,” I muttered to his back as his canoe sped away into the wind. I put my head down and followed. Paddle in, pull water, pray the wind doesn’t change.
“You can do this,” said my inner voice, pushing me forward. I began to think of this issue of Maui Nō Ka ‘Oi, and all the people we know who push forward every day to accomplish what yesterday may have seemed impossible. Their accomplishments, celebrated in these pages, inspire us to reach farther.
The ‘Aipono Restaurant Awards (voted by you, our readers) recognize the best of our culinary industry. I’m particularly proud to honor Icon Award winner Pardee Erdman. Over more than fifty years, Erdman has become not only an iconic figure in Maui’s cattle industry, but a leader in nurturing our community: supporting education and conservation, and leaving a legacy for future generations. Our Chef of the Year award goes to Chef Alvin Savella. A Maui boy, Savella followed his dream to complete a degree in culinary management from the Art Institute of California, and today is chef de cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Banyan Tree Restaurant. Congratulations to them both, and to all our ‘Aipono winners, who push forward into the wind to bring you the most incredible, creative, and delicious food this side of heaven.
Jamie once again stopped his canoe to let me catch up. “Ready to go back?” I asked hopefully. “Sure,” he agreed.
As I turned my canoe to feel the wind on my back, I felt a sense of accomplishment. It was not, however, the easiest paddle of my life “Why is it still so hard?” I asked. “Umm, well, we’re paddling against the current,” he answered. “And maybe the wind changed. You can put in if you’re too tired.“
“No thanks,” I said with real confidence. “I can do it.”
Congratulations to all our winners, and to everyone who paddles into the wind, every day.