'Returning to my Polynesian roots'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am


Phoenix member Sandy Jenner is a Pilates instructor and personal trainer. At 46 she is the second oldest team member. The Lantau-based mother of Jess, 10, and Tyson, six, recounts her personal journey that led to outrigging as a sport.

'My mum was from a small village called Salelologa on Savaii in Western Samoa. She migrated to New Zealand when she was only 17 to do her nursing training. She left her family behind and lived with her auntie and uncle and their family of eight kids. She met my father in Auckland; they fell in love and decided to marry.

Mixed marriages were taboo in those days, but despite resistance from my father's parents, they got married.

'I guess I grew up a little confused myself, but as I've aged, I've become more aware of who I am, and the blood in my veins.

'Outrigging has sparked my interest in my own history, to understand and appreciate the amazing voyages undertaken by my ancestors.

'I feel proud to be Polynesian, and it's something I'll be able to share with my own children.

'My mum's culture was about togetherness, and that was something she instilled in us. This sense of family filters into the boat when I paddle, and it's something I experienced in Hawaii with my teammates. They are like sisters to me.

'When I paddle it takes me back to that place I was when I was nine years old, standing on the beach in the village my mum grew up in, next to the rock pools where women were singing and washing their clothes. Kids were playing with the turtle that was swimming around the turquoise water. I was looking out watching this strong young fisherman hauling fish into a small va'a [outrigger] I had this feeling of complete peace.

'Sadly, my mum is no longer with us, and the truth is, she was not the sporty type, although she did paddle an outrigger growing up.

'I often think of her when I paddle and the beautiful culture that is still hers ... and mine.'