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Wahine o Hawai`i
1999 Kawika Sands

Suzette Smith

I was already a sailing enthusiast when I heard the 1992 U.S. America's Cup crew was going to be represented by women. What I found MOST interesting was that one of them was HAWAIIAN! I found out a few things about this woman and since I was already on the mainland at the time I decided to go to San Diego to show my support. I didn't meet Suzette at that time, but I bought a GREAT red jacket with some embroidery on the front.

Many years later, I mentioned her name when I was told "...She's a member here." I couldn't believe it! It look like I was actually going to meet her! After a few near misses we finally met. At our very next meeting I said "Ey! Hau'oli! I have something for you!" I insisted she close her eyes while I prepared her gift. When she opened them, I presented her with the same red jacket I bought eight years earlier (in mint condition) with "1992 America's Cup" and an American flag embroidered on it.

Since then, we've become friends while keeping in touch (mostly via email) as the two of us hop around the country (and the globe). Somehow, we even managed to share dinner with a friend. I eventually told her of the Keiki Outrigger Camp I was planning. She was selected to crew the Hokule'a at the last minute and wasn't able to be at our Camp to meet the keiki. Maybe next summer!

Throughout our (mostly long distance) friendship, I have found her to be Hawaiian in every respect. Giving of her time and herself. She is an accomplished paddler and steersman, while humble to a fault.

An Interview with Suzette:

How did you first get into paddling?

"I was encouraged to paddle by my mother, Alice Ululani Smith. She descends from a long line of powerful Hawaiian women who were all ocean oriented. They all shared a great respect for the ocean which was heavily instilled in me while I was still in the womb.

I rowed my own boat when I was 3. My first time in an outrigger canoe was memorable. I was physically big for my age. I felt so powerful with paddle in hand pulling it through the water. The coach had a big smile on his face until he asked how old I was. When he found out I was only 11, he blew his mind. I have been paddling outriggers ever since and am very passionate about the sport. Some of my great mentors (paddling) have been Kala Kukea, Rosie Lum, Nappy Napolean, Jody D'enbeau, John Coito, Tommy Holmes, and Ku'umomi Ho. When I paddle these days, by myself or with 5 others, I try to get into that "zen" state, which is six working as one, becoming one with the canoe, one with the elements. That to me is zen. The longer I can maintain that state, the better I feel."

How many times have you done Moloka'i?

"Sailing, canoe sailing, and paddling? Wow! Gives me gray hairs thinking and reliving all those memorable moments of the Kaiwi Channel. As far as paddling, I have paddled in Na Wahine so many times, too numerous to recount. I have always placed top ten but unfortunately have not won one yet. The best is yet to come."

Tell me about some of your accomplishments.

"I am a big wave surfer, ocean sailor/swimmer, and outrigger enthusiast. I also love canoe sailing/surfing. I strive to make every year a dynamic one and try to challenge myself to one up on the last year.

In 1994-95 I was fortunate to have made the cut on numerous outstanding teams: Kenwood Cup, Lili'u iron race, The first womens Americas Cup team, America 3, the Hokule'a/Hawai'i Loa voyages to the Marquesas, The Hawai'i Pa'u equestrian troupe in the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade, the Hawai'i Loa Pacific Northwest Voyage from Vancouver to Ketchikan, Alaska, the Transpacific Yacht race from LA to Hawai'i and sailing on Larry Ellison's maxi yacht on a delivery from Hawai'i to San Francisco. The hardest thing was having to make a decision about sailing with the PVS or America 3, because those two events coincided. I believe my decision to go with A3 helped to open the doors for women to get on Hokule'a locally and open the doors for women sailors nationally. Nainoa knew that it was important for me to go to America's Cup so he let me go on the pacific northwest voyage later in the year.

As far as this year, it has been a wild adventure all involving canoes! I also have been sailing every single day for work! Whew!"

Any humorous anecdotes?

"Picture of a clown on postcard: "When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I should have been more specific!"

Plans for the future?

"I really have the hots to race in the Whitbread around the world race. I am actively pursuing that right now. If I have to do it BOC style, I will (Race around the world alone). There are two outrigger races that I would like to dominate, Na Wahine and Catalina. I am training for a couple of Triathalons next year. The Raid Galousies sounds exciting. I have a long list of goals on my wall that I plan to cross off one at a time. I still have a lot of energy and enthusiasm to burn off! Oh yea, somewhere in between all of that, find a love life!"

Advice for aspiring paddlers?

"Find a mentor that you can trust, observe first, then ask questions. Absorb all the knowledge that they have to offer. Respect your elders. Train your body, mind and spirit. Swim (all the time if possible). Talk to your canoe. Own more than one paddle. Breathe deep! Respect the oceans, take care of the earth. Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Give love and receive love. Visualize success. Have fun!"

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Last Modified: Sunday - 19991226.16:21 EST
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