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By Steve Breazeale

The small group of Dana Outrigger Canoe Club members that travelled to Chile to compete in the South American Canoe Championships two weeks ago have returned home, and they are all still beaming with a sense of wonder and accomplishment.

The five-member group of Dana Point and San Clemente residents were invited by the event’s organizers to compete in the elite first division heat at the race as a guest team. Their guest status meant they could not place on the podium, which was open to South American countries only. But the team had a solid race and placed fourth overall. The Dana Outrigger team, made up of amateurs, competed against professional squads from Tahiti and Brazil.

“We certainly got the respect of a lot of people. We did well, and the boat ran well. We felt like we made a good showing,” team member John Skorstad said.

For Skorstad, a San Clemente resident, the trip was both encouraging and enlightening. The group now knows it can hold its own against top-level talent, got to experience new cultures, and learned different ways to paddle and navigate the waters by talking with and examining other clubs.

The Dana Outrigger group competed at the event in Chile, then travelled to Easter Island to train alongside the Rapa Nui club team, a well-established group in the area. From there, they took a trip to Buenos Aires and paddled with local clubs.

The group made plenty of connections over the course of the week, Skorstad said, and are scheduled to compete at next year’s installment of the South American Canoe Championships in Peru.

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