Blind Crew Inspires All at Liberty Challenge

| June 22, 2014 | 4 Comments

nacmakapo-stage

The NAC/Makapo men’s crew consisting of three blind and three sighted paddlers compete to a respectable 4th place finish in the Men’s Open division and 6th place out of 19 crews overall in the 2014 Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge on Saturday, June 21 in New York City. Even though they were just shy of reaching the podium, they received the longest ovation of all crews when invited to the stage at the Liberty Luau on Hudson River Park’s Pier 26.

Carol Choi, Registraton Director of the Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge, introduced the crew to the audience mentioning their outreach event in New York City the previous day where the NAC/Makapo crew invited local blind and visually-impaired people to the pier to introduce them to the sport of outrigger paddling and inspire them to lead active lifestyles.

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RJ De Rama, Director of Makapo Aquatics Project and one of the blind members of the crew, took the stage alongside Mark Oehlman, Dave Krueger, Tyler Bray, Jimi Spoto and Andrew Skvarla to talk about their crew’s mission, why they decided to form this unique team and how the sport of outrigger paddling can work so well to empower blind or visually-impaired people. RJ made note of the fact that their team competes without special assistance against all the other men’s crews as well as the high level of experience of their blind team members having paddled since the age of 13.

Teamwork is an important and essential element inherent in outrigger paddling but perhaps even more so with this particular team. “In this crew, the sighted men had to rely on the blind paddlers,” said RJ bringing the audience to another round of applause.

As they made their way off the stage, everyone watching were no doubt inspired by their sense of camaraderie and determination allowing many to reflect on their own ties to those they paddle with in their own respective crews.

All of us at the Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge wish the NAC/Makapo Crew the best of luck as they continue with their competitive season truly living their battle cry of No Limits in Sight.

Learn more about the Makapo Aquatics Project at makapo.org.

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