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Clifford Chillingworth participates in canoe paddling as a way to stay in shape and be close to the ocean

By Kyle Galdeira

Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 4:54 p.m. HST, Feb 13, 2014

It came as no surprise to those familiar with Clifford Chillingworth that following his retirement from the city's Ocean Safety Division, the waterman turned to outrigger canoe paddling as a way to satiate his devotion to the ocean.

After all, Chillingworth has spent nearly his entire life in, on and around the water, and it was clear that retirement would not alter his affinity for the ocean.

The 79-year-old stepped down as a Hono­lulu City and County lifeguard in 1981 following nearly 30 years of service, and joined the Wai­anae-based Na Keiki o ka Mo‘i Canoe Club in 1984 after a stint with the Leeward Kai Canoe Club as a way to stay in touch with the beach and water he loves. After nearly three decades of paddling with the club, Chillingworth established himself as Ka Mo‘i's elder statesman, serving as the club's oldest active paddler while helping to mentor the next generation of watermen and women.

"This will probably be my last canoe club," said Chillingworth with a chuckle. "I turn 80 this year. I take it one year at a time now. It gets harder every season, but as long as I can get in and out of the canoe, I'll still be paddling. Plus, it's close to home, so I just roll down the hill and I'm in the water."

While Chillingworth and his Ka Mo‘i teammates will compete in the Na ‘Ohana o na Hui Wa‘a regatta season that runs from late May through early August, the ocean aficionado stays in shape throughout the year by paddling his one-man canoe in the water off Pokai Bay along the Wai­anae coastline. The waterman also runs and lifts weights to ensure that he's ready to go when the competitive season rolls around. He and a group of fellow retirees routinely gather on the beach to trade stories while also making time to exercise and paddle.

"I just like being around the water, being on the beach," said Chillingworth. "I like the camaraderie when the preseason starts and practices get going. It gives me something to look forward to, and I try to keep up with all the paddlers we have in our club. I'm primed and ready to go."

Ka Mo‘i completed an impressive run through the Hui Wa‘a season in 2012, and notched its first undefeated campaign since 1984 by winning all nine regattas despite facing challenges from a host of talented competitors. Chillingworth paddled with the club's men's 60 and 55 crews, and plans on doing the same in the upcoming summer regatta season.

The club has grown over the years to include nearly 200 paddlers, who take cues from Ka Mo‘i head coach Lisa Ka‘aekuahiwi. Her father, Rona, started the club 37 years ago.

"It's pretty awesome for any club to have somewhere around 180 paddlers, and it's been great to watch the club grow throughout the years," said Chillingworth of Ka Mo‘i's steady increase in membership. "We did good last year. We took the Hui Wa‘a championship after winning all the regattas, and qualified a bunch of crews for the state championship race. We just need to maintain it this year and keep producing. When you have a winning organization, it's pretty easy to keep the interest level high."

Chillingworth explained that prior to starting the racing season, he undergoes a yearly physical to make sure he is still fit to paddle competitively. He looks forward to April, as the club will begin its preseason practices in anticipation of the upcoming regattas. From participating in conditioning drills to rigging canoes or competing in races, Chillingworth plans on continuing his paddling career until his body tells him to stop.

"At my age, this may be my last season. If it is, then so be it. I know where I'm at, and I'm not going to push it," Chillingworth said. "But when they see me walking down the beach with my paddle, they'll know I'm back."

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