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In the same boat: Fall City airman finds a family in canoeing club
When Tech. Sgt. Guy Dashnea stumbled upon outrigger canoeing for the first time in 2006 while stationed in Hawaii, he was merely searching for a new way to be active.
Years of intense weightlifting, running, soccer and football —and a 14-year career as a security forces Airman — had begun to take their toll on the 34-year-old’s body. Canoeing offered a high-intensity, low-impact way to stay fit.
But the sport gave Dashnea, of Fall City, a family as well.
“We have poker tournaments, we have potluck parties, we have Christmas parties,” said Dashnea, now a devoted member of the Kikaha O Ke Kai Outrigger Canoe Club, a group based out of Federal Way, that dedicates itself to the Hawaiian paddling sport. “This is a yearlong family.”
Dashnea, now 40 and the fitness outreach program manager for the Health and Wellness Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, joined the club a year ago and represents it today as one of its top six paddlers.
His teammates come from all over. They come as retirees and veterans from the Army and the Air Force, from auto shops and home businesses and from the islands of Hawaii – one is a retired military two-star general. Some are Hawaiian, and some just love the culture.
Some of the group’s paddlers want to win, and some just want something to do.
“If you’re not in shape, it’s OK,” said Dashnea. “As long as your tushie can fit in the boat, you’re going to be OK.
“Either way, they’re not going to judge you.”
But whatever the motivation, every one instantly becomes part of the family.
The paddlers share tents when at races across the Pacific Northwest, they share food, and they share heaters when it’s cold.
“You just feel like you’re part of something,” said Nancy Puglisi, Dashnea’s wife, who is also a member of the club. “And they’re so supportive, and they’re always checking up on you and making sure you’re OK.
“Most American families – they don’t have that kind of bond.”
“Our club is pretty family oriented,” said the club’s head coach, Gordon Martinez. “I think that’s the best part of our club.”
The group is one of more than 15 that make up the Pacific Northwest Outrigger Racing Canoe Association, with teams from Washington, Oregon and Montana.
With about 40 adult paddlers and a children’s team, the Kikaha O Ke Kai team boasts one of the largest groups in the association.
The group competes in races across Washington, Oregon and Canada each year.
On the cool waters of Steel Lake in Federal Way, where the group practices each Tuesday and Thursday evening for nearly two hours and on most weekends, Dashnea and the rest of the team get deep in focus.
Dashnea serves as one of two “strong paddlers” in his canoe, who sit in the middle of the six-man boat and can offer the most powerful strokes.
He forgets about everything — about stress, about work. His paddling is all that matters here.
Every paddler stroking at the exact same time is key to the smooth movement, he says.
“We’ve got to pull together as one to make the boat run smoothly; it’s the same principle as how to run the club smoothly,” he says. “We have a good bunch of guys, and they work well together.
“When we’re paddling together we’re like part of a family,” he added. “We don’t want to let the family down.”
Learn more at www.kikaha.com.