Before many in the CNMI started their weekend barbeque ritual Sunday morning, a crew of 12 intrepid paddlers from the Saipan Outrigger Canoe Club set out from Kilili Beach and Sugar Dock on a mission to circumnavigate Saipan.
Six hours, 29 minutes and 23 seconds later the crew made up of Richard Sikkel, Wayne Bramlett, Eric O’Malley, Joe Przyuski, Gil Birnbrich, and Sonny Downer reached the sands across from the Oleai Sports Complex with their mission accomplished.
“That was one of the funnest things I’ve done since I’ve been on island. You’re seeing the island in ways you would never see it otherwise. It was beautiful. We had dolphin tour guides for a good couple of sections. They came up right along the boat and were practically jumping right over us. It was a perfect 10. That was a great paddle,” said O’Malley.
The men’s team didn’t paddle the whole trip alone as Anna Diaz, Gayle Berger, Brian Eckhart, Ken Pierson, Ann Jordan, and Shelley Kremer were part of the crew that circled Saipan as well.
Just like their trip to Tinian, the SOCC retained the services of one of seasoned local sailors when support boat captain Brady Barrineau from Dive Ops provided the vessel and knowledge to the crew.
This time around the boat was loaded down with a few more paddlers due to the increased distance and difficulty, and they were joined by trip historian Mike Tripp who took an array of video and still pictures to commemorate the event.
Sikkel reveled in the accomplishment from his seat in the knee-deep coastal waters after the paddle while waiting for the rest of their crew from the support boat to make their way to the beach from Sugar Dock.
“It was a piece of cake. That was awesome. That was the first time that it had ever been done before. That’s pretty impressive. It was truly amazing,” said Sikkel
Bramlett didn’t have much to say initially but beamed from ear to ear as his face let slip his feelings. When asked about the trip he said, “Any day you get to paddle with dolphins is a good day”.
While the SOCC and its members have sent countless hours in the lagoon training for local races and the upcoming Hamilton’s Cup challenge in Australia, they had never had the opportunity to see Saipan’s eastern coast from the sea.
“I think it was cool to see the other side of the island. It’s almost like going to the dark side of the moon because you never get to see it unless you go all the way out there on the water. That’s what I liked best about it,” said Birnbrich.
Downer echoed Birnbrich’s thoughts and the four-month veteran of the local paddling scene added the he thoroughly enjoyed the circumnavigation.
“It was great. I had never seen that side of the island. It was good to get in the water for over three hours and we worked toward our eventual goal in Australia. It was a perfect day for it and it went off without a hitch,” said Downer.
Przyuski said many of the same things and that the trip “was a pretty amazing morning” and that he gained a whole different perspective of Saipan and “got to do some paddling while we were at it.”
The next task for the Australia-bound crew is a full 42-kilometer with just the guys, but soon they will be without O’Malley until he links back up with them down under.
The paddle around Saipan was a whale of a challenge, but it’s nothing compared to staggering cost to send the team to compete down under. The SOCC is still looking to the community to help them compete with the world’s finest on one of the biggest stages and you or your business can add your name to the growing list of sponsors by contacting their secretary via email at email@example.com.