- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Jack Roney of Kailua paddles in the morning hours behind his home on the Kawainui Canal in Kailua. “You have to take advantage of being on the water like this,” he said. “It’s one of the best places in the world to train.”

Sunrise often finds Jack Roney on the blue waters of Kailua Bay, paddling his one-man outrigger canoe toward the horizon.

That’s one of the advantages of living on Kawainui Canal, a mile-long waterway that leads to Kailua Bay. The 25-year-old Roney can simply walk to his backyard, grab his canoe and take off for the ocean.

Considering he has developed into an elite paddler, Roney counts himself lucky that his family bought a house with such a prime location.

“You have to take advantage of being on the water like this,” he said. “It’s one of the best places in the world to train. You feel like you’re missing out if you’re not going out. You’re in the perfect environment to be a competitive paddler.”

At 6 foot 3 and a muscular 205 pounds, Roney embodies fitness, and it’s not surprising to learn that he’s one of the best young paddlers in Hawaii. He recently helped Lanikai Canoe Club take top Hawaii honors at this year’s Molokai Hoe, a 41-mile race from Molokai to Oahu that’s considered the world championship of long-distance outrigger canoe paddling.

But elite paddlers need to start somewhere.

For Roney, that was with Lanikai, paddling in summer regattas when he was 12. When he graduated to the solo canoes in his early teens, it was his father who would take him out paddling and sign them both up for races.

While attending Punahou, Roney was a standout in the water - not the ocean, but the pool. He swam competitively and played water polo. He wound up at UCLA as a member of the men’s water polo team, but was cut following a coaching change after a year.

Team sports, especially in college, can be like that.

“Nothing’s really in your control,” Roney said. “That’s definitely a difference between paddling and most other sports. In the one-man, you control your own destiny.”

But after graduating with a degree in political science and working in commercial real estate in California, destiny threw another challenge at Roney: He had to return to the family home about a year ago because his mother was sick and his father needed help with her care. She died in July.

“Even when my mom was sick, I was out there training a lot because it’s kind of the only time you get to yourself,” Roney said.

Paddling offered him more than fitness, though.

“I think there’s some kind of solitude about paddling, especially in the one-man, when there’s really no one around you, you’re three, four miles offshore,” Roney said. “You’re pretty much by yourself. You definitely have moments out there when you go over things in your head.”

Since his mother’s passing, Roney has made training his full-time job.

In the mornings, he usually meets a small group of Lanikai paddlers, many of whom also live on the canal. They like to paddle 2 to 2 1/2 miles out to sea and back.

At midday, Roney will do core work at the gym and in the afternoon, either cross-train with his canoe club friends or go for another paddle.

But there’s one simple exercise Roney does every day: 50 to 100 pull-ups.

“It’s super, super easy to do, and it’s (working out) the same muscle group as paddling,” he said.

Roney plans to return to California next month to resume his career in commercial real estate and that means he’ll have to scale back his training.

But his eyes are set on a couple of key races: the “Molo Solo” (also known as the Kaiwi Channel Solo OC1 World Championship) in June, then the Molokai Hoe in October.

Roney said he’s done the strenuous channel crossing six or seven times, giving him much more experience than most others his age. Through the sport, he’s learned the importance of preparation, whether it’s for a race, a test or a meeting.

“If it’s a race, you might start training three months in advance,” he said. “If it’s a big test or big paper, you got to start working on it a month or two in advance. You just can’t wait until the last day, because if you wait until the last day to cross the Molokai Channel, you try to cram, you’re going to totally fail.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com


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