The Australian ‘All Stars’ are looking to repeat history this year at the Na Wahine O Ke Kai Outrigger Race. The women are hoping to claim gold from a pool of over 60 teams, a feat last achieved by Australians in 2004.
Meaning “Women of the Sea” in Hawaiian, Na Wahine O Ke Kai is the toughest and longest race in women’s paddling, running 68km from Molokai’s Hale O Lono Harbor to Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon in Waikiki.
Robyn Saultry, a member of the record-breaking 2004 Team Mooloolaba, will draw on her experience to prepare the All Stars for long-distance paddling’s most prestigious event.
“When you go to Na Wahine, it’s the Olympics. There’s nothing above it,” says fitness specialist Saultry, who has won the race twice.
“When you hit that beach, and you’re first, the fanfare is just astronomical… it is something that I want these girls to experience, and not be second or third.”
The team is spread across the Pacific – most are in Australia, with one based in Samoa and another on Norfolk Island. Most of them first competed together at the World Distance Championships in August last year, where they won gold. Just recently, they won the 42km Takapuna Beach Cup, in New Zealand, by nearly 20 minutes.
All Stars’ youngest member, 21-year-old Shania Paine, has been paddling for 15 years and is thrilled to be training with like-minded women.
“We’ve got the drive. Because we won Worlds last year, we feel that we can do it, and we want to do it: we want to go and win,” she said.
Having finished second in Na Wahine in 2017, Paine recalls the feeling of “making it”, and is hungry to do one better this year alongside her dedicated crew.
“I think it’s such a good attitude to have because you’re going to put in 110% through the whole campaign for each other.”
“I know what it takes. I have to keep encouraging these girls to keep training hard, and they have to know that they’re one step ahead of their competition in training.”
The All Stars rely on a week-by-week training program created by Saultry, tracking their progress on Garmin Connect. Despite still being seven months out from competition, training is intense.
“They’ve just stepped up to four paddling sessions a week. They’ve got 70-80km of paddling per week. On top of that they are doing gym work and running or riding, at least three [times a week],” explains Saultry.
Shania says the highly specific program is unlike any training she’s done before.
“Robyn’s amazing. What she can offer and what she’s achieved is pretty cool. Her training programs are insane, it’s down to the tee: everything is there for a purpose.”
When asked what advice Saultry would give the team to achieve gold, her response was simple.
“Number one they have to believe they can do it. If these girls can maintain their focus, we can really put it to them.”
“It is like winning the Olympic Games. If you have one win across that channel in your life, it is something that nobody can ever take away from you.”
The All Stars are currently reaching out to prospective sponsors to get them over to Hawaii and kitted out in Australian representative gear. It costs approximately $3000 per paddler to get over there and compete. At writing, they are the only Australian team who will be competing. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for the team, email firstname.lastname@example.org