For a group of women from Bellingham, Seattle and Tacoma, it starts with 8 a.m. practice on Lake Union and now the dream is only a couple weeks away.

The members of the Pacific Northwest canoe team “Wahine o Wakinekona” or “Women of Washington” are preparing for a race described as the world championship of canoe paddling.

“We’re preparing for the Na Wahine o Ke Kai, one of the biggest distance outrigger canoe races. It’s one of the most challenging races because the conditions are really tough,” said team captain Jamie Stroble.

The race is September 22. It’s 42 miles out in open ocean. Stroble said the team will battle wind, ocean swells and currents.

For Stroble and her teammates, it’s taken years to prepare for the Na Wahine o Ke Kai outrigger canoe race. Stroble said she’s been following teams and learning all about the race.

Roughly 80 teams from all over the world will compete. Stroble said it’s been several years since there’s been a women’s crew from Washington.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to show that we have amazing, strong women paddlers that are up here perpetuating strong Hawaiian culture,” said Stroble.

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Depending on the conditions, the race can take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to complete, making it a test of both physical and mental strength.

In August, the team placed first in the Pacific Northwest Challenge, which allowed them to qualify for the Na Wahine o Ke Kai race. The race was 26 miles along Lake Washington.

“My hope is that we’re going to finish this happy and exhausted and be able to represent strong women paddlers really well.” 

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