Aimee Edwards

KIALOA 'Elele in Portland, Oregon

Ambassador: Aimee Edwards

How did you come to know of KIALOA and how did you team up – what was the evolution of this relationship?

Back in 2002, I had the pleasure of meeting this awesome paddler named Meg Chun. We paddled together in China on the Yangtze River for 23K on a dragon boat, before they flooded the Three Rivers Gorge! There were no butt pads or full carbon fiber paddles at this time. We would switch sides one bench at a time, one paddler moving over the lap of the other and grab a quick drink of water or gu before the next bench went out. She was right behind me that race and brought such a good energy for the length of that race that I have been a fan ever since. I remember hearing some of the women with Meg bringing up this amazing sport of outrigger, which I had heard a bit about, and I was in awe. I have trusted them completely, and they have been so helpful, ever since I became interested in my first outrigger blade and had no clue what I needed.

What does being a steward of the KIALOA brand mean to you?

This is quite an honor. It is always nice to feel part of something bigger than yourself, that you believe in, that Kialoa believes in. Kialoa is not just a paddle company, they are about finding good energy and sharing it, something we can always have more of. This pushes me to do more and be more for my paddling and river community.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a passionate goofball. What I do and enjoy becomes a part of me. I don't just paddle, I AM a paddler. I don't just teach, I AM a kindergarten teacher. Both push me to be a better person, to be comfortable not knowing, being flexible and then striving to learn more. They are both therapy. I do try to find balance to just enjoy hanging out with my husband, family, friends and pets. The little things make me pretty happy, like finding an awesome stick on the river for my classroom, or an eagle or great blue heron sighting (the river has made me a bird geek). I will always be a kid at heart.  

2017 /2018 Events you participated/will participate in?

Local races (Small boat winter series, Rusty Iron, Rooster Rock, Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival, Race Around the Island, Gorge, Bellingham Bay, Pacific NW Outrigger challenge, Long Beach Dragon boat Festival, Portland Dragon Boat Races)

Canadian Dragon Boat Championships 2017

Queen Lili’uokalani Canoe Race 2017

IDBF Dragon Boat World Championships - Team USA, Kunming, China 2017

Wish List and “Maybes” 2018, still in the works:

Local races (likely the same…Small boat winter series, Rusty Iron, Rooster Rock, Concord Pacific Dragon Boat Festival, Race Around the Island, Gorge, Bellingham Bay, Pacific NW Outrigger challenge, Long Beach Dragon boat Festival, Portland Dragon Boat Races)

Na Wahine, Queen Llio’uokalani, Catalina, IDBF World Club Crew Championships for Dragon Boat in Szeged, Hungary

What community events, charity participation or other organizations are you a part of?

Weathered Hands, (collects hats, gloves, socks for the homeless population around Downtown Portland and Vancouver, including the area around our boathouse, this year local paddlers, including Wasabi Paddling Club was able to fill 5 boxes for the Christmas Eve packing and delivery event set to send out 3,500 bags of warmth.

“I Have a Dream” Foundation, (The work I do with this foundation is part of my school, as they give an amazing amount of support to the elementary school I teach in, their work allows us to support students in high poverty schools, all the way through high school. Their goal is to support students through college, starting at kindergarten!)

Friends of the Children, (This is a partner of I Have a Dream and our school, as well, who does a lot at the kindergarten level to identify and support children with mentors through 12th grade.)

What's are some of your favorite things to do?

Simply hanging out with my husband and our graybies (two gray cats…and a dog again one of these days), paddling, teaching kindergarten, reading, writing, doing any sort of creative challenge, bird watching between runs while paddling (I am obsessed with eagles and great blue heron, my spirit animals), taking photos

What's your favorite food?

I could never pick just one…but tomatoes do come up in a lot of my favorite dishes from breakfast to dinner. I could probably eat them in some form, everyday.

What is your favorite restaurant in Hawaii & Bend, OR?

I looooved the poke at Umeke’s in Kona with a lilikoi smoothie, bonus was running into finds from other states that I didn't know would be there! In Bend, I love leaving early from Portland to arrive in time for breakfast or brunch at The Victorian Cafe, yummy and charming, and maybe hitting it again before leaving…

What music are you listening to these days – what is on your favorite playlist?

My playlist is all over. Within five songs I will hear my new favorite french pop song, Justin Timberlake, Josh Groban, Coolio, Matisyahu, Maroon 5 and then a score from a movie soundtrack that moved me. I basically love anything that builds emotionally, has a good beat or pumps me up.

Favorite place to visit?

Kona is pretty great, I love visiting Canada, Seattle and driving to the Gorge is a favorite drive of mine…anywhere in the PNW I can make time for, we have something very special here.

How did you get started in Paddle sports?

My sister had started dragon boating and was on the national qualifying team in 2000, she dragged me out of bed one morning 17 years ago and that was it. We were able to be on the US National Team at world Championships in 2001, together, my first.

What is your pre-race meal?

Either oatmeal, greek yogurt, fruit & granola or a simple ham and egg breakfast sandwich, with a banana…it depends on the race and my nerves.

What do you like to eat/drink after paddling?

Coconut water or coffee, if I haven't had any yet, also Vega electrolytes (berry flavored). I’ll crave almond m&m’s after races, sometimes, or any kind of fruit!

Proudest paddling moment?

Many of them are from various dragon boat world championship moments where we medaled in close competition, or getting the first gold in an event in U.S. history, but I was also proud because of the work the people on those teams put in to get to those moments. Doing my first small boat winter series race on an OC-1 is up there with those medaling memories, because it’s something I never thought I would do.

What was your scariest paddling experience?

I haven’t had anything scary happen in saltwater, thank goodness, because I have had an overactive imagination about sharks since I was four. The scariest, or most surprising paddling experience was when a barge sent a wake over our dragon boat one April and the boat suddenly disappeared from under us. I found the girl from the bench in front of me, suddenly in my lap and then in the water. We were able to bail the boat while some of us swam to shore to find some sort of help. Looking back, everyone stayed calm, everyone was safe and it makes for a good story now.

Tell us a little about how you train for paddling races?

It depends on the time of year. Right now, the gym and water time are about 50/50. We are on the water 3-4 days a week on an OC1, OC2 or OC6 and then to the gym 2-3 days a week. In the spring and summer, water time goes to 4-5 days a week and I still try to do at least two gym days, depending on race days. I always take at least one rest day, and sometimes more, if I just need a day to myself amidst a crazy life and work schedule. The rest is just as important. I have definitely had to switch my mindset to training smarter. I just started going to Orange Theory Fitness this past year, and it has been a good off water challenge for me.

Where is your favorite place to paddle?

Kona is now up there (since I finally got to paddle there this past year), the Gorge is amazing and special, but my favorite place is my Willamette with friends and the wildlife (eagles, herons, hawks, deer, beaver, river otters, sea lion, salmon and even the scary sturgeon).

Any paddlers you look up to?

So very many! There are obvious legends and strong paddlers to look up to, who are amazing athletes to admire. But, the thing that I admire or look up to in them the most, is something I have also seen in new paddlers or teammates throughout the years. It is in their character, and how they carry themselves in a strong but humble way. It is in their drive and willingness to put in the hard work required. It is in the positive energy they put out toward those around them. THAT is what I look up to in any paddler.

Were did you grow up and what was it like?

I was born in Long Beach, CA. We lived in a few cities in SoCal, and moved to Oregon my sophomore year in high school. In California, we swam, ran around outside every spare moment, and camped a lot; never a dull moment with me and my three sisters. It was definitely different moving to Oregon, but it is such a beautiful place. We are close to rivers and lakes right here in Portland, the Gorge, the coast and the mountains! I know it isn't as sunny, which is always amazing, but you have to look at the rain here as cozy and recognize that we wouldn't have all this gorgeous green without it! I truly love the Pacific Northwest.

As a child did you have pets? 

We always had family dogs (or not so cuddly cats), growing up. There was Nana the Great Dane, Panda the Lhasa Apso, Chipper the Springer Spaniel, Patch the Cocker Spaniel and Cody the Shepherd. Chipper and Patch were my two closest buddies, who I told secrets and cried to when sad. Pets were always part of our family!

What are some of the crazy fads you and your friends went through?

Oh dear…I fell for it all! I had a perm and blue eyeshadow, wore about 100 bobby pins too many trying new hairstyles, and I have had just about every hair color. As far as clothing, we used to tuck our jeans into our socks, shoulder padded blazers and leggings, followed by a lot of flannel when NW grunge became big. We were very fashionable. ;)

What were some things that you and your friends did as kids?

We were always climbing walls or trees, building forts or just running and riding bikes everywhere. We also played a lot of Star Wars! As I got a bit older, I swam and ran track and cross country with friends, my gateways into sports for the rest of my life. I am so fortunate to have had these great experiences with a fun and imaginative childhood. 

Something you want out of life? Balance and Happiness.

What are some qualities that you value in a person?

Honesty, Positivity, Genuineness.

What inspires you to do ‘good’ in the world?

The kids and families I work with, they are amazing people. My family and pets, who count on me to be there for them.

 Proudest accomplishment? Becoming a teacher.

If you could re-experience one thing in your life, what would it be?

Hanging out with my grandpa.

What is something you're really proud of and why?

My family, and how welcoming they are to everyone they meet. I love introducing people to my family!

What are some goals your still trying to accomplish?

I am relatively newer to paddling on my own OC-1, and still need to learn how to paddle in the gorge on it, this is the year!

Who are your heroes?

Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, My Parents.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words? Kid at Heart.

 What time of day do you like best and why?

Right after a paddle or workout, because I did something good!

 If you were an animal, what would you be?

An eagle or blue heron, my spirit animals that help remind me to stay balanced.

Would you rather be able to fly or to breathe under water?

I used to dream I could fly as a kid, so I will stick with that dream (though breathing underwater sounds pretty cool)!

Any nicknames you go by? Aimeenotamy.

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