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    Tuesday, December 11, 2018-7:59:40P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Our Oceania: Canoeing’s deep-rooted cultural legacy in Micronesia

TODAY, Wednesday, the Marianas Outrigger Club or MOC faces off against Guam, Yap, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Palau in the Micronesian Cup Va’a Canoe race.

The MOC is a Saipan-based non-profit committed to “developing the sport of outrigger canoeing in the CNMI through educational, recreational, cultural, & competitive programs and activities.”

MOC paddler and CNMI team member Bobby Cruz says that the skills that win today’s races, like “understanding the dynamics of the ocean and other physical elements at work,” harken back to basic canoeing techniques and traditions.

“Canoeing has a deep-rooted cultural legacy in Micronesia and throughout the Pacific,” he said.

For MOC Club President and head coach Dino Manning, who started the MOC about four years ago, canoe racing is also beneficial for the mind and body.

“Paddling for me is therapeutic,” he said. “It’s a great outlet because when you're out on the ocean, it takes focus in order to apply the right technique to increase speed and to read ocean conditions. I feel recharged after I paddle.”

“It’s a small, tight-knit group,” he added, “so you have the benefit of training and racing with your friends, which makes it fun.”

Marianas Outrigger Club photoMarianas Outrigger Club photo

But make no mistake; the MOC’s 20-man crew isn’t just in it for the lifestyle. They race to win.

During last year’s Micro Cup on Guam, the MOC placed first in the long distance and 500 meter races. They placed second in the 1500 meter sprint. And at the 2016 Micro Cup in Palau, the MOC swept all three events.

“These results are testament to our chemistry and brotherhood,” said Cruz. “For most teams, it takes anywhere from five to ten years for them to really gel but… from the very first year that we were together, we started to go fast. And every year since then, we’ve been getting faster. So it’s really uncommon to have that kind of chemistry.”

The MOC has been preparing for this year’s Micro Games in Yap for months, meeting at 5:30 in the morning every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for two hours of training.

“Before we start our work day, we hit the water,” said Cruz, who has to wake up at 4:30am to make it to Susupe on time. He says many of the MOC’s most serious members train outside of practice as well.

“There are also a handful of guys that spend a lot of time out on the one-man craft. So for many of the guys on the team, they actually spend about six or seven days out of the week out on the water… that’s how much commitment this team has.”

Marianas Outrigger Club photoMarianas Outrigger Club photo

Part of that commitment means finding ways to balance the MOC’s competitive schedule with the members’ day-to-day lives.

“Right after [practice], a lot of the times we’re picking up our kids and dropping them off at school, then hitting the showers and going straight to work... it takes a lot of discipline,” said Cruz. “Everyone’s a professional in their own capacity. We have a bunch of educators, general managers, a director, a chief marshal… it’s a pretty dynamic group of guys.”

When asked how he felt about racing today, Cruz said the MOC was certain to face some “tough competition.”

“They’re all good,” he explained. “Guam medaled at the top Pacific Games three years ago and that’s international… Palau has also won a couple gold medals, too.”

But Cruz hopes that his team’s chemistry and work ethic will propel them to victory.

“We have this saying on the team: ‘Work hard, stay humble,” he said, “and that really drives the training. You’ve got to put in time and effort.”

“I think the key to our success or the key to us blending is just time in the water as a team — spending a lot of hours working hard toward achieving our goals that we set for that day or that particular practice,” he continued. “We look forward to doing well or at least trying our hardest to represent the Northern Marianas.”