Lanakila’s Ryland Hart a rising star in the sport of paddling
by Randy Angel
Not only is teenager Ryland Hart making a name for himself in the world of paddling, but he has become an ambassador for the sport he loves.
The 16-year-old Hermosa Beach resident and Mira Costa High student, is rising through the ranks in stand-up paddling and outrigger canoeing. On Sunday, he helped the Redondo Beach-based Lanakila Outrigger Canoe Club men’s unlimited team place second in the US Championships Catalina Crossing.
“What a race. It was great to take second overall,” Hart said. “The race was super gnarly and we were racing a few Tahitian crews. The level of paddling was extremely high and I was very excited that we rose to the challenge.”
The race, which begins in Avalon on Catalina Island and finishes in Newport Beach, was the sixth U.S. Championship competition for Hart but his first with the men. In years past, he has raced in the Junior division.
“Lanakila is on a campaign to make California a force in the paddling world,” Hart said. “I believe we’re well on our way.”
The U.S. Championships capped off a successful season for Hart who was one of seven paddlers (five boys, two girls) on the Lanakila Junior team to compete in the Tahiti Nui Va’a Outrigger Canoe Race in June.
Hart finished third in the Junior Men’s V1 Race (1-man outrigger/rudderless) and placed 10th out of approximately 200 competitors in the prestigious, open Te Aito event. He was the only paddler in the top 30 not from Tahiti or New Caledonia.
“Tahiti was a dream come true for me,” Hart said. “Ever since I started paddling and really learned about the top paddlers, I’ve wanted to go race in Tahiti. The Tahitians are known for being the top force in the world and being on the start line with them was amazing.”
Although Hart has competed in world championships for outrigger the last three years in Hawaii, it was his first VA’A world championships.
“Va’a is Tahitian paddling where the canoes are different,” Hart explained. “The 1-person canoes are longer and don’t have a rudder so you have to steer by pushing water in different ways with your paddle. Third place for me was very exciting because all of the other competitors were two to three years older than me, so to be that much younger and still get third place was pretty eye opening. It also added fuel to my fire for the next world champs In two years.”
Coach Brian Munce is in his fifth year with Lanakila and fourth in the Junior Program. He began training paddlers for the trip to Tahiti in January, narrowing his pool of 40 to just seven (six in the canoe with one alternate), Lanakila was one of six teams from California in the competition.
Joining Hart in Tahiti were Keoni Defries, Noam Elroi, Will Obermeyer, Blake Rohrbach, Seren Kindt and Jillian Wong.
Hart first caught his coach’s attention when the 12-year-old rowed in the the 30-year-old Munce’s canoe.
“I’ve watched him grow. He has a real passion for paddling,” Munce said. “Ryland’s strength is his attitude. He trains four to five hours and is mentally tough. He gives it his all and is always looking to improve. It’s been inspiring to watch him push through the learning process.”
Despite his young age, Hart’s list of accomplishments is impressive. He has won the Battle of the Paddle, Island to Island Waterman Relay, Molokai to Oahu and and Catalina multiple times.
“My most memorable moment in paddling would be my very first Catalina Crossing on a 2-man with Danny Ching when I was 9 years old,” Hart said. “It was from Avalon to Dana Point and we got 3rd place in the Open Men’s race.”
Hart’s paddling skills are not the only things that impress Munce.
“Ryland is very charismatic and a leader,” Munce said. “He brings juniors into the sport, including their parents. After a contest or practice, he helps by cleaning up and carrying equipment to the truck. His example rubs off on others.”
Munce is also excited about the girls in his program, whom he feels are beginning to hit their stride.
“Jillian Wong and Seren Kindt paddled in the canoe that came in second in the Junior Girls division in Saturday’s race over to the Catalina,” Munce said. “Then, they turned around and raced with some of our Junior Boys and took third on Sunday. They all raced amazingly. The Lanakila Junior boys teams were 1st and 3rd and the girls finished 2nd and 3rd.”
Hart’s Junior teammate Keoni Defries was also on the 2nd-place men’s boat at the U.S. Championships and Noam Elroi and Blake Rohrbach paddled in the men’s canoe that placed 10th.
Will Obermeyer was on the Junior boys team that came in first in their division, winning the title for the third straight year.
Lanakila paddlers range from junior paddlers ages 12-19, to adults ages 19-75. The adults’ backgrounds range from lifeguards, firefighters to teachers, tradesmen and professionals.,
On Saturday, Sept. 16, Lanakila will be hosting its 3rd annual OhanaFundraiser at Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach from 5 – 9 p.m.
Proceeds benefit YMCA’s Veteran Family Services Programs (a program developed with assistance from Northop) and Beach Cities After-School Childcare.
by Randy Angel