This oral history interview is a project of the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The legal rights of this material remain with the Outrigger Canoe Club. Anyone wishing to reproduce it or quote at length from it should contact the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions that are not factual. A full transcript of the video may be found below.
An Interview by Marilyn Kali
November 3, 2017
MK: Today is Friday, November 3, 2017, and we’re in the Board Room of the Outrigger Canoe Club. I’m Marilyn Kali, a member of the Club’s Historical Committee. One of the Historical Committee’s projects is do oral histories of long time members. Today, it’s my pleasure to be talking to three time Olympic kayaker, Tracy Phillips. Good morning, Tracy.
TEP: Good morning.
MK: First, would you tell me how you spell your first name? I’ve seen it spelled many different ways.
TEP: It’s legally T-R-A-C-Y, but when I was in high school, I couldn’t do Y’s very well. I hated them, so I made it to an I, but ever since 9/11 and the security now, to get a license renewed, you have to have it legally, so it’s now Y.
MK: It’s back to Y.
MK: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, when and where you were born, and where you grew up?
TEP: I was born August 1 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the old Kaiser (Hospital), which used to be on Ala Moana Boulevard, facing Ala Moana Bowls, where my mom liked to surf in the Fifties. And I’ve been here pretty much my whole life. We moved away when I was, I believe, two months old, back to where my mom grew up in Northern California, and we lived in Sausalito, where she was a teacher. And we moved back when I was eight.
MK: Can you tell me a little bit about your parents, who they are and …
TEP: My mom (Margie Howe) was, like I said, born in Northern California. She grew up right across the street from her high school, playing sports. She did a lot of tennis, golf, that sort of thing that they did in the olden days. She was a swim instructor, and she came over here in the Fifties, where she met my dad, Walt Phillips, who was originally from Southern California. And he was here, because he loved to surf. My mom and my mom’s sister came here to learn how to surf, and that’s where they ultimately met. And she learned to surf, and he was a surf film maker as well, and he’s done a lot of surf films. And they did those through the Sixties, but that’s how they met and I came to be.
MK: No wonder you were a surfer.
MK: Where did you go to school?
TEP: I went to La Pietra.
MK: For high school?
TEP: For high school and I did a couple of years where my mom was teaching, I believe at Pearl Harbor Elementary, and then I went to Waikiki Elementary, which was convenient, because I lived right in Pualei Circle.
MK: Did you participate in any sports in high school?
TEP: Yes. I participated in volleyball, mainly volleyball, track, and that’s it.
MK: Were you a varsity level, or …
TEP: Yes. Well, we didn’t really have JV until about my … well, they didn’t have JV when I started in volleyball, but yeah, varsity pretty much, from 9th grade to 12th.
MK: Did you win any championships or …
TEP: I think we were a pretty good high school team back then, and I believe our team was not high school championships, but more for the smaller schools. I believe we won our division there.
MK: That’s great. And you said volleyball, and what was … track?
MK: What did you run in track?
TEP: I ran the hundred, the two-hundred, and the four-hundred. I didn’t run that long, only because, at some point, my coach got tired of me coming to the track meets really tired, because I’d been surfing all day, so it’s either surfing or track, and so I made a choice, and it was surfing, which my mom was very upset. She said, you don’t quit things. And so, I remember that, and since then, I haven’t really quit.
MK: Did you have any Outrigger members who were classmates at La Pietra?
TEP: They went to the school at the same time, yeah, a few.
MK: Who were they?
TEP: Di Guild was there at the same time. Let’s see. Kelly McGee. Anybody else? I think that’s it.
MK: Did you go to college?
TEP: I only went to college for about a year, a year and a half, and I just never knew what I wanted to do, so I was just taking electives and finally said I’ll just work.
MK: Where did you go?
TEP: UH (University of Hawaii).
MK: Well now you joined Outrigger when you were ten years old. Do you remember who your sponsors were?
TEP: I have no idea.
MK: Was surfing your first sport at the Club?
TEP: Actually, at the Club, yes. My first sport was actually skiing, when my mom was … when we moved back to the mainland. My mom was a ski instructor, so skiing, and then here, surfing. Yeah, then surfing. So they kind of helped.
MK: Did you compete in skiing?
TEP: No, just my mom was a ski instructor on the weekends, so I went up and she’d leave me on the hill, and I’d come and meet her, at a young age. It was safe, back then, to do that, and I’d just ski and meet her at lunch time.
MK: Do you still ski?
TEP: Actually, the last time I went skiing was this past winter in Park City. That was the last time since I skied, actually in Lake Placid, I think in the Nineties. Skis have changed
MK: They have.
TEP: They’re much better.
MK: And it costs a lot more.
MK: When did you start surfing?
TEP: Right when we got here. I remember my surf instructors. I would come down (after school) and wait for my mom, and my surf instructors were Bill Capp and Charlie Amalu.
MK: Oh, my goodness.
TEP: They did this with a lot of kids, but they would take, I would meet them, he’d teach me like he did many people, like Kelly Chuckovich, when she was younger, and he’d give me animal crackers, and then we’d go surfing at Tonggs. We’d paddle out. He gave me my first surfboard, which is a tanker, and it had my name on the top. And so, I had great people, who, in themselves, have huge stories and backgrounds, who are Club members that taught me how to surf.
MK: Were both your mom and dad members of the Club?
TEP: Just my mom. My mom was, like I said, divorced by the time I was nine months old, I believe, so just my mom.
MK: Okay. So, Bill Capp was well known at the Club. He was … Do you remember him being Santa Claus all those years?
MK: But he also worked great with the kids, especially in surfing. What was your favorite surfing spot?
TEP: I would have to say Queen’s, especially when I competed, because you had the waves with only four other girls or something. But right out in front, Old Man’s, back then, was different, and it was more a right and a left, because the bottom was different then. And it was less crowded, obviously. Because it’s right there, probably, I would have to say that.
MK: Did you compete?
TEP: Oh yeah, I grew up competing, from age ten, here at the Club, and then I competed all the way through high school.
MK: Were there meets in Waikiki, or where were they?
TEP: Meets in Waikiki, meets on the North Shore, like Haleiwa, or Chun’s. Yeah, that’s about the two places they had back then, oh Makaha, where I broke my nose.
MK: What happened?
TEP: During the lunch break, we were still surfing, and if you remember Makaha will get that big backwash. And so, back then, there were no leashes, so you just surfed into the backwash, and you’d try to jump up and do flips, and I came down, and my knee came down right in my nose.
MK: Oh no.
TEP: But luckily, one of the girls that was part of the contest, who was a friend of mine, her dad was a surgeon. He looked at it. He said, ah, you’ll be alright. Just go in the hospital Monday. And I had to go in and get it fixed, straightened up a little bit.
MK: Did you enter the Makaha International Surf Meet?
TEP: Well, I don’t know if it was international then, but it was just Makaha. Yeah, I did.
MK: How did you do?
TEP: In that one, well, a couple of times, I think one year I won. Another time, I was second or third. I probably entered about three years or so, but I remember the first time I was going to enter, I’d never surfed there, and my mom took me out to surf there. And one of the old time beach boys, I think it was Buffalo (Kealoha), was out there, and he knew my mom, and I started paddling out, and all of a sudden, it just started getting bigger and bigger. And my mom was watching, and he’d be looking and going, she’s alright, she’s alright. And I’d be going up over these waves. And finally, and I caught one, a few, and I came in, and I remember that it just got bigger and bigger, how fast the waves can change, so total respect for country waves.
MK: Did they have a girl’s division?
TEP: Oh yeah.
MK: I knew they had a boy’s, but were there a lot of girls competing?
TEP: There was quite a few girls back then. They had different age groups. They were pretty broad. You could be ten years old or eight, like I surfed, I think, somebody when I was eight, but they started at ten, but you could still surf in them, and then they went to like fifteen, and then fifteen to something. It was pretty broad range, and then they start specifying later on, more closely, age related.
MK: Were there Outrigger women, girls, competing?
TEP: I believe Evie Black also competed then. Kisi (Haine), I’m not sure. Kisi competed here, but I don’t think she did as much outside. Laurie Fagothey did a lot of surfing. Oh, Laurie Fagothey was at La Pietra when I was there, and her sister Jill, who were both members.
MK: Did Outrigger have a surf team, or did you compete individually?
TEP: Yeah, just individually.
MK: You got any good surfing stories to tell us?
TEP: Other than breaking my nose?
MK: Yeah, that’s a pretty big one.
TEP: I don’t know if it’s really good, but another friend of mine, we went to Honolua Bay (Maui), when we were like juniors, I believe, and we were going to leave Friday. We asked permission, and they said you can’t leave school to go for that reason, so we just had to call in sick anyway. But that, I don’t believe Honolua Bay has probably ever been so not crowded, since in those days, and it was perfect. And it was like I was spoiled after that. It was very hard to come back and not see a wave that wasn’t like that, and I was spoiled since then.
MK: Are you still surfing?
TEP: No. I haven’t. I want to. I don’t even really have a surfboard, so I need to try these new surfboards, that act like a long board. It looks like a long board, but shorter, but acts more like a short board, because I still like to short board, so I need to try different boards first. I would like to, yeah. I would like to try surfing again.
MK: In your spare time, right?
MK: Let’s move on to volleyball. You grew up playing on the baby courts up there. Who were your volleyball coaches and mentors?
TEP: Well, obviously, Mr. (Tom) Haine was around. I mean, coaches and mentors, when you had everyone from the Walter Guilds that were older, and then the Peter Baldings and the Kisi’s (Haine) and the Marc’s (Marc Haine and Mark Rigg), and everybody grew up playing volleyball. They were kind of my mentors, because they were all so good. So you learned how to get good, just because the people you were around were so good. And as far as help, I was so lucky. I met Charlie Jenkins, Dave Shoji, Randy Shaw, Daddy Haine, of course, I mean so many, so many people that would throw a hint here and there, and then having people like Beth McLachlin, who was one of my coaches at HSG. I was super lucky, just to have all those names around, to help, so everyone was my mentor. Everyone had … you always learned from somebody.
MK: That’s great. You often described Kisi as your sister and your best friend, and you guys won the state sand volley ball championship.
TEP: Yeah, we won, I think a couple of years, maybe. And then I also won it with Rocky Elias, who was a, I think two years in a row with, and she was a volleyball player at UH at the time. But yeah, Kisi and I, I just remember playing in tournaments with Kisi, and then we’d, at the half time, we’d go, we’d drive up to her house to get haircuts, because this guy would come to the house to cut hair, and we’d get our hair cut, and we’d come back down. It was really funny. But Kisi, yeah, we had a lot of fun together.
MK: Did Daddy Haine ever coach you or give you advice?
TEP: Probably. He probably scolded me more, because I swore a lot. Not having a dad, and my mom just going uh, he would probably … because Kisi was very good at saying fruit or firetruck, or something, and I just let it out. It’s like uh, Tracy, enough of the swearing. Okay, sorry.
MK: Did you ever play against him?
TEP: Uh, probably, in like the Kane-Wahine. I can’t remember … yeah, I probably have. I’ve played with great partners, and he was still playing, and so I probably. I can’t remember all the people I’ve played against. I remember the partners I’ve had, but it’s hard to remember everyone you played against, for the most part.
MK: Did he (Daddy Haine) take mercy on you girls being girls, or was he slamming the ball?
TEP: No. None of the guys did (took it easy on us). We wouldn’t want it any other way. We were tough back in those days. We weren’t wimps.
MK: That’s right. You gave it back as good as you got. When did you stop playing volleyball?
TEP: Oh boy. I think, I don’t know if I stopped, but it got less when I started doing racketball, and I played almost every summer, and then it was about the time I started playing racketball, I went indoors, trying to get out of the sun, and so that’s probably about when I started in my racketball career.
MK: Well, how did you get involved in racket ball? That’s a strange sport for Hawaii.
TEP: It is. I think it’s because I got a job at Oahu Athletic Club, so I was there, and I was working at the front desk, and wondering what’s all the racket going on back there. And I would go back there, but I never really went all the way back. And there was eight courts, and finally I’m like huh, interesting sport. So I just started, I don’t even remember who showed me how. I just picked it up right away, and interesting enough, if you’ve heard the name Egan Inoue, who’s been around. He was the world champion. We started at the same, and so we both got really involved at the same time, at racket ball. And so, I just all of a sudden, I just become entrenched in racketball. That’s all I did, was racketball, racketball, so I’d go to work and I’d practice, go to work and practice after. That’s how I am. I get in one sport and I concentrate on it.
MK: You won three state women’s racket ball titles, so I guess you were very concentrated on that.
TEP: Yeah, and doubles.
MK: Oh, you won doubles too?
TEP: And mixed doubles.
MK: Who was your partner?
TEP: For the doubles, this girl Shizu. I can’t remember her last name (Takeyasu), but she was tenacious. Shizu was my only doubles partner for women, the two years I did doubles, and for mixed, it was John Britos and the Britos brothers, Peter Britos and John Britos, the family was really talented at racketball. I was super lucky to have great racketball partners.
MK: Were there a lot of people playing racketball in those day?
TEP: Yeah. In the Eighty’s it was like this big deal, and there was so many more racketball courts. There was the court house, which had two locations, and Oahu Athletic Club, the YMCA, so there was a lot more.
MK: Did you play in the mainland as well?
TEP: Mm-hmm (affirmative)- I played, once, I was in the Ektelon Championships back there, and I believe, well, twice, once in Atlanta, was the championships, and I played, in my division, I think I was third open overall, on open women’s. And then there was another one, it was like a Christmas one (Schoeber’s Christmas Racquetball Classic), that was in California. I played in the men’s B division, and the woman’s open, and I can’t remember how I finished, but I think I went to the semi-finals in the men’s B’s. And the woman’s, I believe, I was in the finals (1st, Class A Women’s Singles). I can’t remember what happened though. But I remember one, I had to stop, because I had such bad tendonitis. It might have been there, for the woman’s. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember if I won. I think I had to pull out.
MK: When did you stop playing?
TEP: Oh, shoot, somewhere around 1982 or 1983, or 1984. I just kind of tapered off, and I started getting back into paddling again. Yeah.
MK: You were surfing, you played volleyball, you played racketball, and you never missed a Regatta season. So how did you manage to do so much stuff at the same time?
TEP: I have no idea.
MK: A multi-tasker.
TEP: A whole lot of times there were different parts. The racketball, a lot of times, a lot of the tournaments were in the winter, I believe, more fall and winter, I think. It’s so long ago. But I just somehow managed, somehow.
MK: How did you get from surf meets to-
TEP: Mom. Yeah, when I was young, before I could drive, my mom was taking me here, surf meet. I’d have a volleyball tournament and a surf meet on the same days, and sometimes paddling Regatta. So I’d have to, but paddling then, you’re young. You just go. You come back. You go to the volleyball tournament, and then hopefully you don’t miss your surf heat, and you get rushed to there. So yeah, mom was driving Miss Tracy.
MK: Oh, my goodness. You started paddling canoes as soon as you joined the Club?
TEP: Yeah, I started paddling. I wasn’t old enough to compete yet, but I was paddling, learned how to paddle. Fred Hemmings and Mike Holmes and all those guys, back then, were more than helpful.
MK: Were they your coaches?
TEP: I don’t know if they were my coaches, but if you asked them to help, they would. I mean, there were so many. I don’t remember specifically, but I think … I remember, I believe Fred just said, because then there was no age groups. There was only like novice, so even if you were 10 years old, you were a novice, and you could have someone who was 20 years old and novice. But I remember, they decided, because I was still little at the time, it’s just, you’re going to steer, and I steered, and I didn’t know what I was doing, but somehow got down the course. I remember barely being able to see over, if someone was a lot taller. There were younger girls, but there were a few, older novice. You could go wherever, no matter your age.
MK: You won your first state canoe racing championship on the girl’s fifteens, and then you came back and won another girl’s fifteens, so you were on the fifteens for a while.
TEP: For a while, yeah. They started after novice, I think, when I was about twelve, they started fifteens, so you didn’t have to be fifteen, obviously. So I paddled in a few years.
MK: Who was your crew back and those days?
TEP: I believe Lisa Livingston was on it, and Kisi. I think a girl, Malia Mullahey was … this is just the ones that I remember. I don’t remember. Oh, another girl Shauna Peerington, I think, Didi Guild. At different points. I don’t think, like I said, you could be twelve and still be through the fifteens, so every year there could have been a couple other girls joining or they weren’t paddling the other years or, you know.
MK: Was that gold medal as a fifteen your first gold medal, or had you won others?
TEP: Probably. I remember fifteens though, for some reason we’d finish a race, and we’d flip, and I have no idea why.
MK: After you finished.
TEP: Yes, after we’d finished, and we’d flip, like go figure. I have pictures of us, like Nanakuli. We’re like yeah, and then all of a sudden, we’re upside down, so this way and then this way.
MK: You don’t get DQ’d if you flip after the finish line.
MK: Okay. So you started out as a steersman?
MK: And you’re not a steersman anymore.
TEP: No, I believe, though, in my first Molokai I steered, which was funny, because I hadn’t been steering all year, I mean a little bit, but I think in one of the last practices, Tommy Conner says, Tracy, go to six. And that’s where I ended up steering, and we had twelve girls in the first Molokai, so six would change in, and six would change out, and I steered half of it, so that was funny.
MK: What seat do you sit now?
TEP: I consider myself utility girl. I can sit wherever you put me, for the most part. I’m not so good in three, now that we’ve changed the technique with the calling of certain things, but I can sit anywhere as far as blading.
MK: You have a favorite seat?
TEP: Not really. Anywhere the boat’s going fast.
MK: As long as you’re winning, you don’t care.
MK: Do you have a preference, though, for Regatta season, or distance season?
TEP: For a seat?
MK: Or for just racing.
TEP: Oh, just which one I like better? I like Regatta. As I got older, and they got longer, I don’t like it as much, because it’s a long day, especially when you’re coaching and you have to be there all day, pretty much. But I like the, because of the kayak background as well, I’ve always been more of a sprinter, so I like that intense from here to there, and the strategy of the turns, and that whole thing. But then, for distance, because you are just out in such beautiful water, and the scenery, depending where you are, and the changes, and different aspects of the course, it’s hard for me to say. I like them both, pretty much. I guess I’d have to give the edge to distance, though.
MK: For the particular reason that it’s …
TEP: Just you have more girls. There’s more strategy to it.
MK: What coach have you learned the most from, in canoe racing?
TEP: Well, I think, initially, it would have been Tommy Conner, because he was one of my first coaches. And he brought such a silent type of strength to your crew. He didn’t say a lot, but when he did, it was potent. So, I would have to say, in my formidable years, Tommy Conner. Every coach brought something. I don’t know if anyone taught me more, just different things. So, from Tommy, to Steve Scott, and then to Johnny Puakea, and then coaches I had in kayaking all still transfers over to canoe paddling, so all of them brought something. I couldn’t say I learned more from one or the other.
MK: What did Tommy teach you?
TEP: He taught me how to be strong, thinking-wise. I remember one time, he showed me he really believed in me, when we started distance. We were under age. We were young. Most of the girls we’re paddling with were twenty and over, and we were like fifteen, fourteen. But he believed in me, to a point where he’d say, Tracy. I’d come over, I was a little kid. And he’d say, Tracy, I need you to stroke the start of this next race, and I need you to get them out in front, and I know you can do this. And he’d get me, I can’t even remember what he said, but certain little things he said to me clicked. That was probably going to happen, despite anyone who was stroking, but he taught me self confidence at that young point, and it really gave me a feeling of, okay, I can be good at this. So, he gave me hands on, a little bit of steering. Steering isn’t … it’s something you learn over the years, so he couldn’t really teach so much then, but little tips then about steering, that … just go straight. But in the ocean, he gave me a few tips. I’m still not very good at it, but I do okay.
MK: What about Steve Scott? How did … What was his …
TEP: Steve Scott, what did he teach me? Steve Scott was a competitor. He didn’t want to lose, so he was very … When you were out there, he wanted you to win probably more than anybody out there. Steve had a tenacity about him, and he would be upset if you lost. He was a little more regimented in training, at that point, as the sport started progressing. He started researching things more, as far as training. And, a lot of times, he … I learned from being with the same crew a lot, because we had a lot of disparity. We had six really good girls, and maybe some that were still just learning, so he kept us together a lot, and that actually, being together a lot, is how it helped the crew learn. And so, I took that knowing, but how you have to integrate the other girls in, it just can’t be the same six. But there is, like I said, so many things I’ve learned from … I can’t even begin. If I sat here for an hour and thought, I could come up with things.
MK: Well, I’m sure, and Johnny brought a whole new element into coaching.
TEP: Yeah. So, with Johnny, I had him earlier in the day. And Johnny and I go back, because he was kayaking when I was kayaking, and then he sustained a shoulder injury. And so, he was around. He was very good, obviously, with boats, because he makes boats. But he was a boat handler, and he fixed them, and he trailered them, and he had also started coaching juniors in kayaking. So I was kayaking when he was kayaking. So we came up. He was at Atlanta. He drove the motor boat during a lot of the races, alongside the film guys. And he was boat handler, I think. In 1992, he helped our head coach drive from here to there, all over Europe. And so, with Johnny, he learned probably when I was learning the kayaking aspect, and then he, obviously, learned a lot from his dad (Bobby Puakea), growing up, making boats and Koa canoes and canoe paddling. But Johnny learned a lot on the mainland, and I learned a lot from him, but he made a big jump after 2000, I believe. The last year he coached was, I believe, 2004 maybe, and then he started coaching Team Bradley.
But he learned a lot by going to Tahiti and learning why are they winning, and he researched it, and he looked at it, and he talked to Shell Va’a’s coach, and so he learned. So, ultimately, not this year, but the year before, when Tom (McTigue) asked me to coach the (OCC) women, I said okay, but I might need help, because I want to change the stroke. And I talked to Johnny, and we wanted to try this stroke. And so Johnny was here partial, part times of the year, because he was living on the mainland. So he helped me learn. I’m still learning. And then, ultimately, he helped me again this year, so we were co-coaches. So he would be gone quite a few months the first year, and then this year, he was gone about two months, but he definitely brought a different level of intensity on the stroke, just how … what I learned the Olympics, he’s conveyed better on, this is what you’ve got to do. If you want to beat the best, you’ve got to train like this. You have to … it’s just all or nothing. You’ve got to go. You’ve got to put it all into it. There’s no like cruising.
MK: Well now you’ve paddled distance for a number of years. You’ve won four Molokai Championships on the open crews, and how hard is it to keep that competitive edge, from year to year, with paddling?
TEP: It’s hard, because it’s more mental. The physical part is easy. It’s the mental part, I find for myself. I don’t do a lot of the one-man races, because the kayaking part took it out of me, competing in singles and trying to be the best. And even though I competed in the team boats as well. But for paddling, it’s being on the one-man, I train to make sure I don’t let my team members down. So that’s, if I’m in a boat with nine other girls, I don’t want to let them down, so that’s where I said I don’t want to be the weakling, so that’s what kept me motivated.
MK: Well now you paddled a lot of different distance races. You did Molokai, you did Dad Center, you did-
MK: Liliuokalani, Catalina. Do you have a favorite race?
TEP: Well, they’re all so different. Catalina was one. That’s fun, because you’re paddling to an island, and it’s in California, and you’re going to Avalon, which is a beautiful island. It’s cold and the water’s cold. But Queen Liliuokalani, back when I was younger, was nine people, and it’s only an 18 mile race, so that thing was over in like an hour and twenty minutes, or and a half, because you’re just sprinting. But that’s probably one of the prettier one, because the water is beautiful and, again, you’re on Kona, which is pretty. Every one, there’s no favorite one. Dad Center, you’re going along the cliffs. It’s hard to pick, you’re in Hawaii. Any race in Hawaii is my favorite.
MK: Well now, canoe racing is a team sport. What have you learned about being part of a team?
TEP: Well, how close you have to be for it to work better. You can’t have a lot of nit-picking behind people’s backs, or this or that. You have to trust the person. A team, you’re going into battle, without being killed, obviously. You can’t compare the two like battle, but you are battling against other people, and you have to have that person’s back. You have to, like I said, you don’t want to let that person down. You don’t want to be a weakling. If that person is tired, you’ve got to back them up. So just believing in the people that you’re with, that they’re going to back you up, you’re going to back them up. And you’re in this together, however it ends up. You did it. That’s what I like about it.
MK: What was your most memorable Dad Center race?
TEP: I’m going to have to say this last one, because we hadn’t won it for so long, and we didn’t expect to win. And the part where we actually beat (Team) Bradley, in their strongest part, which was surfing. Johnny had always said, we’ve got to surf better, and we out-surfed them. And it was nice to come across, against a team like Bradley, and cruise like Hui Nalu, who was very strong. Probably, yeah, that one, plus I knew this year might be one of my last ones, as far as open team participation, so it was nice to win with all the young girls, that are going to be doing this.
MK: What was your most memorable Na Wahine race?
TEP: Probably all the ones we won.
MK: Your first one, most people say.
TEP: Yeah, the ones we won, and maybe, yeah, the last two. All of them are pretty … there’s funny moments in all of them, inspiring moments. They were all good, but probably the ones we won.
MK: Any specific moment that stands out?
TEP: Well, this isn’t a thing that has to do with winning, but I always remembered, during the race, it was with Tom Conner, and Sue Oldt, Sue . . .
TEP: . . . Damon, she had been bailing. And for some odd reason, she put this bucket … Now, we didn’t have the little buckets. We had these kind of big round buckets, and she had it in her mouth, but was paddling. And I don’t know why, but we were in the boat, and we were looking at each other, and Tommy goes on his thing. He goes “Sue, take the bucket out of your mouth.” And that, every time, it’s just the funniest thing, and Tiare will remember that more too.
MK: Well now you started coaching a few years ago. You started out with the novice men.
TEP: Yeah. Todd Bradley was unable to finish the season. He had started with them. And he had business stuff, so I kind of jumped in. And I don’t know if for better, for worse, on their part, but yeah, I gave them the business. But they did really well, they responded, and they actually came down to the time, because they improved, they improved, they improved. And it got to a point where, back in those days, if you won Oahu’s, you went straight to states. And they had a memorable race. They were right in lane one, and it was one of these close, close races, but they pulled it off, and it was great. That was one of my proudest moments in coaching, to see them get better.
MK: They didn’t mind having a woman coach?
TEP: No, because I’d just come back from the Olympics, so I guess they knew. And I was really big and muscly then too.
MK: Well now you’ve been coaching the women’s program for a few years.
TEP: Off and on, yeah.
MK: And when did you take over?
TEP: My first year, I believe, was 2011. And Liz asked me like two weeks before the season started, because they had no one. I’m like, what? So it was then, and I still asked Johnny to help. When he was in town, he was our boat driver when he could, not really in coaching, but he helped us as far as the course, and this and that. But 2011, yeah, that’s when I started.
MK: Have you done it every year?
TEP: No. The next year, so I’d been paddling up to that point, and I coached that year. And I was kind of ready to take a break, but after that year of coaching, then Shelly Wilding was a member, athletic member, and they asked … we were going to be co-coaches, and we were going to do that. But we got into about the first month, and I just said Shelly, I can’t do this, I need a break. I really need to step away, and so I didn’t paddle that year at all, and it’s 2012.
MK: And then you came back.
TEP: Yeah. And that’s when I did Molokai. I didn’t really do Regatta, but I did Molokai with Huli Nalu/Revoluson.
MK: You had great results with the women. Is the new stroke working, do you think?
TEP: Yeah, I believe so. It’s kind of just common sense. It’s a little bit longer, more pressure in the water, not losing the pressure on the paddle. And so, the longer you’re out of the air, it stands to reason that you’re going to slow down. The more time the paddle is out of the air, the boat’s going to slow down. So you’re longer in the water, not way back here, not like an older Hawaiian stroke, but quicker forward. And the girls have caught on, and it’s all about, we’ve done a lot of technique. That’s just the fastest way to get fast, is technical work. Everyone can get in better shape, but the technique. And all the girls grabbed onto it, they believe in it, and when everyone’s doing and thinking the same thing, you’re bound to have results.
MK: Do you use the trainer?
TEP: We have, yeah. We use the trainer.
MK: You train in the Ala Wai, or out in the ocean?
TEP: Both. Flat water, there’s no hiding what’s going on. It’s very … it’s a workout all the time. The Ala Wai’s, especially at low tide, is a lot of resistance on the boat, and it’s a great workout in the Ala Wai. You can’t hide anything, as far as technical. If you’re off, you can feel it. So I prefer flat water. Obviously we need to have surfing skills, but flat water is where you can get a lot of work done.
MK: And you can really watch the technique.
MK: How do you feel about training in one-mans versus six-mans.
TEP: They’re both good. This year, we did … the homework was supposed to be starting in November, say, doing either the (Kanaka Ikaika) races or a lot of one-man, working on the stroke on your own, hopefully four or five times a week, ’cause you need to have your homework. You need to have your base on your own. You just don’t show up in March or whenever, and expect to train yourself into shape, and compete at the level of Molokai in only six months. You have to have a good ten months of training, preferably eleven months. But they both are equally good. Obviously six-man is a heavy boat. It takes more out of you when you’re doing a lot of heavy, or high-intensity work. It’s harder on the body, the one-man. You can get a lot of distance covered at your own time, when it’s preferable for you. You’re not on a schedule, but both are extremely important. A couple of our workouts on the one-man, during the season, were two of our harder ones, in the one-man, because you were competing against other girls, and that creates faster paddling in the six-man, so both.
MK: How often are you going out in a one-man?
TEP: Then or now?
TEP: Oh, now, since I’m semi-retired? I try to go out with my boyfriend about three to four times a week. I want to try and get on the surfski also, hopefully. So I’m going to say, now, probably four times a week, maybe once on the surfski.
MK: Well Tracy, you’ve been a top level athlete for a number of years in Hawaii, but you also competed in the Olympics three times, and you were named the top Female Athlete of the Year by the US Canoe and Kayak Team, two different times, and by the US Olympic Committee Canoe/Kayak Athlete of the Year also. That’s very impressive.
TEP: Ah, thank you.
MK: How did you get involved in kayaking?
TEP: By accident. I had tried surfski a little bit, like mid 1985, and a friend of mine, Kevin Olds, had come back, moved back here, and he had brought back a K1 and a C1 canoe, and he knew that I’d been kind of titling around just for fun. And he said, you should try K1, and I said, oh, yeah, yeah, I saw that in 1984, when Marshall Rosa was going to try it.
And here’s a short story real quick. When I was growing up, I always knew I would go to the Olympics. I just knew. It’s kind of like when you see someone, that’s the person I’m going to marry, or that’s … I just knew. My mom was saying what? I don’t know. I’m going.
And so, anyway, Kevin met me at the Ala Wai, and I guess I could say it was one of those ding, light bulb moments for sure. I got in the boat, I paddled around, didn’t flip, came to the dock, I said where do I have to go to try and become an Olympian, hopefully, in the future. He’s like Newport Beach. That’s where all the girls from 1984 trained. And Billy Whitford, at the time, he coached from there, and so it was funny.
Tiare (Richert Finney), … she’s part of the reason why I kind of got on this path too. I didn’t want to leave Oahu until then, and when I heard that, Tiare and John had asked me if I wanted to be Thomas, their son, who was only one and a half or two at the time, two, to be their nanny while they went on a business trip, and I went with them to San Diego. And so, while they were doing these events, I would take care of Thomas. And I said okay, can I make my … and it was for a week, and she said you can make your return ticket whenever you want.
And so I went to Kevin’s sister and cousin, who were living in Orange County, and that’s after I did that. I went to … you can live with us, and I went to where I would train, at the Newport Aquatic Center, which was not the Newport Aquatic Center yet, but in that area. It was mainly UC Irvine’s dock for rowing. And I said okay. And I moved in January of 1986. That’s how fast it went. And so, that’s how … it was just from like end of November, and I moved in January. I just knew.
MK: Tell us about your training there.
TEP: Well, right when I got there, I got a job, and then I biked to where I would paddle, and it was already scheduled. We didn’t have a US kayak woman’s coach yet, but we had Billy Whitford. And every morning we trained, and then I went to work, and then I lifted weights. It was at an athletic club, so I lifted weights there. And sometimes coming back, I trained again, and then biked home. It was right away, that I learned to be very regimented, not because I knew what I was doing, but that’s what I was told, meet at this time, or whatever.
MK: And Billy coached you guys?
TEP: Oh yeah. He coached us right away with technique, and I was terrible, not terrible, but-
MK: You were a beginner.
TEP: I was a beginner, but luckily the surfing and canoe paddling, and swimming for your surfboard in days without leashes, taught me how to propel something through the water. So I learned that.
MK: And the rest is history.
TEP: The rest is history.
MK: Did you start competing?
TEP: In 1986, that first year. The trials were in Lake Sebago, New York, and that’s where I went. I had to beat, I think, three girls, because a couple of girls from the Olympic team, one was having a baby, one was having a back operation, so there was three or four other girls. I mean, there was more than that, but ones that were in the final. I had to finish in the top six I believe. And so, there’s nine in the final, so I made it to the final, and I remember just feeling huh huh, I was so scared. And I was, I think, fifth, I was luckily fifth, but I made the national team, luckily.
MK: In your first year?
TEP: In my first year, by virtue of the fact that these other girls didn’t show up, because they couldn’t. And when we went to Europe, that was another ah-ha moment, when we got to Europe, and there were east Germans and Hungarians. And I was like, oh, I don’t have to beat these girls, I have to beat those girls. And so, my whole mind switched, and so the next year, boom, the next year’s trials, I put so much work in, and also my boyfriend at the time, that year, the first year, ’86, became Greg Barton, who won two gold medals in 1988. And I did what he did, every second of the day, when we weren’t working, as far as training. And so, that got me into the regiment, but the next year I won, and I was, from that moment, I won the fastest girl at that year. So I got to compete at World’s, in the singles, in 1987, and I missed the finals by this much. It was a photo finish, to the girl who finished third the year before, so I was very fortunate to have good races soon.
MK: Well now, the races for flat water kayak, you raced in singles, doubles, and fours, and what’s the distance-
TEP: 500 meters.
MK: For all of them?
TEP: For all of them. Now, later on, they added a 200 meter. It wasn’t an Olympic event until not this Olympics, it was the year before. It was 200 meters they had, which would have been a good one for me, because I had really good starts, so darn.
MK: You’re ahead of your time. So you did a lot of national competitions.
MK: Any stories to tell from any of them, things that happened that were interesting?
TEP: At nationals? No, not really, that I can remember. I can remember one. No, I remember one, one story. It was at Seattle, on Green Lake, and we had come back from the Olympics I believe, or World’s, one or the other. And, in the semi-final, I was lucky, I had a pretty easy semi-final, and I was going down the course, and I usually go out really hard, establish what I need to establish a lead, and then just take it easy, because we still had doubles and fours to do. And so, I’m about 150 meters from the finish, and Green Lake is notorious for having horrible reeds in there. And I swear, I must have run over the biggest palm tree reed or something, because I was paddling, and it gave me whiplash. I was like, holy mackerel. I was like, oh, and I’m like, everyone’s coming up on me. I’m like ah, and I barely, barely crossed the line before the next couple of girls, because … And so, they would go out and have weed cutters, but I get to the dock, and it’s this … and I wasn’t the only person this happened to. It happened to a lot of people, unfortunately, but that was a good story. That scared me.
MK: Well, when you race, do you race in your own lane?
MK: So there’s no changing lanes?
MK: You have a course, a direct course?
MK: You want to the Pan Am Games.
TEP: A few times, yes.
MK: What was that like?
TEP: It was fun. The first one was in Indianapolis. That was fun. The second one was in, where was it?
TEP: No. The first one was in Indianapolis. The second one was in ’95. I can’t remember (Cuba). I don’t remember. It was somewhere. Well obviously it has to be in the Americas of some sort. I can’t remember where it was. Where was it? Anyway.
MK: How do you go about training for the Olympics?
TEP: What do you mean training?
MK: Do you train with a whole team? Do you train individually?
TEP: Well, both. If I was here, I had a boat here, I would train on my own. At that point, you’d have a schedule sent out by your coaches, so you knew what you had to be doing. You knew what weights you had to do. It was all mapped out for you. You didn’t have to think too much, other than learning your body, when to rest, when you’re not feeling so hot, that sort of thing. But a lot of it was spent with the team, certain members of the team, especially the time in Newport Beach. A lot of people trained there. Other countries would come and train there. Sometimes I’d stay, when I was living in Lake Placid. In the off season, I do cross country skiing and swimming, and then we’d go to Florida and train. And the German team would come down there, the Canadian teams, so it’s all mapped out for you. Once you’re on the national team, you’re taken care of. In the off season, you don’t get taken care of unless you have sponsors, but you go where you need to go, to train with who you need to train with. You can do a lot on your own, if you’re self-motivated. I had a speedometer, so I could tell my speed, when I was by myself, but yeah, for the most part, you’re somewhere where other team members are training.
MK: You mentioned living in Lake Placid. Is there an Olympic training center there?
TEP: Yes, it was there from when they had the ’80 Olympics, and that’s where the athletes stayed, and they’ve built … that was one of the first ones, other than Colorado Springs, the second one where they have an Olympic training center. So our coach at the time, Paul Podgorkski, lived up there, and was one of the first ones that start coaching Greg Barton in the Eighties, 1984 I believe. And he moved up there, so we would spend a lot of time there in the summer, because it was close to where we would go in Montreal, and fly to Europe. We’d go to Europe twice a year, because most of the time, we’d spend six weeks in Europe racing, and we’d come back and train in Lake Placid, because the weather’s a lot like Europe up in Lake Placid. And then, we’d go to World Championships, which were always in Europe somewhere.
MK: It’s an interesting question, who pays for all of this travel and all of your living expenses?
TEP: Well my mom helped out a lot. I worked part-time. You would get certain stipends if you would finish top eight in the world, from the Olympic committee, and luckily I would do that. Also, early on, my early times, I had a time in volleyball, when I was asked to play with Tom Selleck, and Tom was here doing Magnum PI, and I didn’t know who he was in the beginning. He was just another handsome guy at Outrigger playing volleyball. So I got to know him, when we were young. He was doing Magnum. And then, I had been playing racketball, I hadn’t really been playing volleyball, and Dean Nowack said “Tracy, Tom needs a partner for the Kane-Wahine (volleyball tournament)”. I’m like, I haven’t been playing. And he’s like, that’s alright, he just wants to hopefully win a couple of games. And so, I said alright. So we played, and to say the least, we had the biggest crowds of women watching. But we actually did pretty well, we didn’t do too bad. I don’t know. Went to the quarter finals or something, and we did alright.
So, luckily, because of him, later on, when I started kayaking, my mom said, I was giving out things to try and find sponsors. She’s like, why don’t you ask Tom? I go “Mom, he’s a friend.” She’s like, “well, he’s a friend who might be able to help you.” So I wrote him a letter and I was in Lake Placid, and my mom calls me, and it was when you had actual phones on the wall. And she’s like, “Are you sitting down?” I go “No, I’m at a payphone, there’s nowhere to sit.” She’s like, “well, I heard from Tom’s secretary.” I go “What?” “They’re going to give you the whole amount.” And so, every year I got a certain amount, for about four years in a row, and that helped immensely back then. And the Outrigger Duke Foundation was probably also the other one that gave me enough money to pay my rent every month, so that was huge.
MK: That allowed you to do what you needed to do.
TEP: Yeah. I think I was one of the first ones they (ODKF) gave it to.
MK: You were. Originally, it was from the Outrigger Foundation, then it became the ODKF. Well that’s wonderful. It must have been thrilling to be selected to the Olympic team in 1988.
TEP: Yeah, it’s always …
MK: You worked hard to get there.
TEP: Yeah, I worked hard to get there.
MK: How big’s the women’s kayak team?
TEP: Back then, it was six girls, so it would be four, one, the K1, and I went K1, K4. Usually, hardly anyone does K1, K2, K4, because it’s back to back, so K1 and K4 on the same days. So, yeah, something like that. Anyway, so that’s really hard to do all of them together. But usually you had a K2, and then four of you are in the K4. Now it’s different. It’s a lot different. You have to, as it got into 1992 and 1996 teams, you had to qualify the boat. So you went, whether it was at World’s and you qualified the boat, or you did it at maybe at the Pan Am Games, or something else, you had to qualify the boat, not the person. So, if you qualified all three events, you could ultimately have six or seven girls, if everyone did something separately. But, they’ve only qualified one boat now, so it’s just a K1 in the last Olympics. So it’s much harder, ever since the wall came down. It got a lot harder.
MK: So how many boats does each country enter? Just one?
TEP: Just one. You only have one K1, one K2, one K4.
MK: So it’s not a big Olympic sport, it’s … there’s not a lot of athletes actually competing-
TEP: Well, there are, because you have to … there’s a lot of countries competing, that’s why you have to qualify the boats.
MK: No, but I mean, so the US has six girls at the most, or seven?
TEP: Yeah, every country.
MK: And so, the US kayak team is fourteen people, men’s and women’s?
TEP: Well, and then you have the canoers as well.
MK: Oh, and plus the canoe. That’s amazing. So you also went to the Olympic Games in Seoul. Seoul was the first one.
TEP: -and Barcelona.
MK: And then Barcelona. When you were in Seoul, were you able to go to the opening ceremony and get all of the feel of the Olympics?
TEP: Yep. And I actually saw Jim Iams (OCC member, US women’s volleyball coach) on the field. He was coaching … he was help coaching, assistant coach of the woman’s volleyball team, and so I have a picture of him down on the field.
MK: Did you get to meet any of the great American athletes from 1988?
TEP: Yeah. Flo Jo, Florence Griffith, or is that …. There was Flo Jo, and then there was the decathlete girl. What’s her name? Anyway, yeah, I met quite a few.
MK: Were there any other Outrigger members, or people from Hawaii in the ’88 Olympics?
TEP: I believe what’s his … he’s on the …
MK: Chris Duplanty.
TEP: Yeah, it’s Chris Duplanty. I believe he was an alternate, but he was there, Chris Duplanty, and Jim Iams, as I said. No volleyball guys. Well Tom Selleck was an honorary, but no one yet. Later on there was, you’re going to have to help me with the names, I know them very well, but the volleyball players that competed, and Chris Duplanty in 1992. Wyatt Jones, who was a member, I don’t know if he’s a member still, but Wyatt Jones was in 1992, for canoeing. Other than that, it was mainly volleyball players that competed.
MK: Did you get to go to any of the other competitions, or …
TEP: I don’t think we did. Yeah, it was hard. My mom did, but it was hard, because we were training or resting, because we were in the second week of the Olympics, and rowing is first. And so, you’re training, and then you’re still training like twice a day, so it’s hard to go to all events, especially when they’re really spaced out. But every room had your TV or whatever. You could see any event, it was streaming live.
MK: Yeah. And eating in the, what did they have, a big commons of some sort?
TEP: Yeah, you got to see a lot of different athletes, and it’s a freak show, pretty much, because if you look at Olympic athletes, they’re in the best shape of their lives. So you have the tallest of the volley ball players, you have the tallest of the basketball players, you have the biggest of the weight lifters, you have the shortest of the gymnasts. It’s a freak show. It’s like a circus. You’re like oh, my god, everyone is just like these sizes and widths and … everyone … there’s no politics there, because you all appreciate what you went through to get there, so there’s a common bond. So everyone’s saying high to each other, and so that’s pretty cool.
MK: So the Olympic spirit is alive there. With the whole world watching you, how do you get ready for your event? I mean you have … do you have a routine you follow?
TEP: Yeah, usually you usually have, whether it’s mental or just the warm up, I try to stay unfocused for a little while, so I wouldn’t be too focused until I had to be, because sometimes you can let it all get to you. And so, I try to stay it light, until it was time, and then, as Johnny says now, turn on the switch. That’s kind of what I did. When it was ready, and I had to start warming up, and I had to start thinking, and I had to realize, okay, I have to … I’m in this lane, or whatever. You can’t worry about anybody else. You can’t control them. You’re not going to go down a race and yell oh, and have them flip or something. You have to worry about yourself, and so my routine just involved getting warmed up, making sure I was prepared as best as I could, and trying to block out any outside distractions. It’s pretty much the same for everyone. Whatever routine worked for you, you did.
MK: How did you finish in the Olympics?
TEP: I was all over the board in most of them. I finished in sixth place in one. I finished in … different boats, I finished seventh in one. It’s kind of all over the map. I finished better in World Championships, which are the same people. I wish I competed better at the Olympics, and I competed better at World Championships it seemed. But all over the board, anywhere from fifth to ninth, in different events.
MK: Well that’s amazing, considering how many entries there are.
TEP: Yeah, well, usually it comes down to, I think they’ve narrowed it down to, like I said, you have to qualify the boat, so it’s, I think it comes down to about twenty-seven girls are allowed in the singles, that have a chance to qualify, all over the world. So there’s more than that, but you have to qualify the boat now.
MK: You were still going at it in 1992 and you went to Barcelona.
MK: And in 1996 you went to Atlanta. Any difference between the three Olympics, as far as preparation?
TEP: Not really. In hindsight, now, I can say I was someone who over trained too much, so if I could go back, I would have listened more to my coaches, when they said you can’t be Superwoman every day. So, as I got more towards the end, in 1996, I was even trying harder. And 1996 was a weird year. I was pretty much on my own. We had issues with the coach, and so I kind of fell away and wasn’t allowed to train with another coach, so I was pretty much on my own. And that took it out of me a little bit, and so 1996 was not a stellar year. I was probably in one of the best shapes I’d been, just mentally. So looking at 1996, it was exciting to go to our home ground in Atlanta, but training for all of them, different, but, like I said, if I could go back, I would have changed a lot. I think I would have had better results.
MK: Did you take a break between any of the Olympic years?
TEP: Uh-uh. I mean, I came home, I started paddling. That was my off. So, as far as a break, no, because I knew I only had a short window. I started later, in my twenties in this. So I knew I couldn’t. I didn’t have a lot of time. I had to make up. Most of the girls I competed against internationally, had been doing this at least twelve years, by the time I started. So, as I would get faster, they would get faster, but the gap, my level of … I made a bigger jump, but you know at some point it’s going to be harder. It’s harder to get those last seconds a year or something. It’s hard, but all of a sudden, you’ll make a three second jump. And as the boats got better, it helped. What was the question?
MK: Yeah, you didn’t take breaks-
TEP: Yeah, I didn’t take breaks. No, so I had no time.
MK: You were invited to the White House.
TEP: Three times.
MK: Three times. Is it the whole Olympic team, or is it the kayak team?
TEP: Whole team.
MK: And what is that like? What did they do?
TEP: Well, the first one with (President Ronald) Reagan, was unfortunate. He got called away. Something was going on. But they usually, they … you’re on the grounds, they have food for you, then you … we had a big picture in front of the White House. We were supposed to have a hand shaking session with him. Luckily, I got to shake his hand, and I have pictures of him, where he’s like this far away from me. But he had something happen, they had to go. And you just have a great time. You eat lunch and you get to see the White House. The second time was with (President George) Bush, and that was fun. You get pictures with him, so I have all these pictures at home. If I had my phone, I could show you a couple. And then, the third time was with (President Bill) Clinton, and 1992, actually, it rained outside, so everything was moved indoors, and we were all sitting inside the White House. And that was funny, because people started putting things on, I don’t know if it was George Washington or Andrew Jackson’s bust. There was credentials, and all of a sudden there was a hat, and then there was glasses. There was an Olympic jacket, and the curators were like, no, don’t do that. But it’s fun, and then Clinton. I have a good story there if you want to hear it.
So, with Clinton, you were in a line, and it was Clinton, Hillary, Chelsea. So as you came up to go through and shake his hand, there was a guy there who would say your name to him, and he’d say, okay, Tracy Phillips, kayaking. So I went up, and they’d say, Tracy Phillips, kayaking, and so you shake his hand, very soft hands, and he goes, so wait, hold on now, now what kind of kayaking is this? And so, if you remember the time frame, there was the whole Whitewater thing that was going on. So me and my … sarcastic, it’s a second language, sarcasm is a second language to me. I said, even though it wasn’t true, I said white water. And I’m going over to shake, and I have this on camera, I mean on pictures. I shake Hillary’s hand, and her face is like this, and Chelsea’s like, and then I’m walking away like, ah. And my friend, who was in front of me, was laughing, and it was so funny. I couldn’t help it. I had to say it.
MK: What was your best memory of the Olympics?
TEP: My best memory, probably, I would have to say, I wouldn’t say the best, but one of one that stands out, was Greg Barton winning his two gold medals, and being there, and jumping up and down, because that was a great feat. And then he won ninety minutes later, in the K2, with Norman Bellingham, so that was a great memory. I mean, all the open ceremonies were good, but I think, in 1996, when we were right on the edge of the track, and no one knew who was going to light the flame. But we were standing there, all of a sudden behind us, we feel these towering people, and we look, and it’s the Dream Team (basketball team), so you had these basketball players, who come in after, because people want their autographs, so they kind of come in. And they’re standing behind us, and we’re like hey, and they’re like hey, hey, isn’t this great? They were just like … And so, we’re waiting, and here comes Janet Evans (gymnast), and then we’re like who’s it going to be, who’s it going to be, and we’re right there on the edge, and you see her running up, and you see it’s Mohammed Ali, and that was pretty chicken skin. I just remember that.
MK: I can remember watching it on TV.
TEP: Yeah, and it was like whoa, and even the basketball players were like whoa.
MK: I’d say that’s a good memory.
TEP: Yeah, that’s a good memory. And being done, when I finished. I was like, ah, I’m a normal person now.
MK: Did you bring back any souvenirs from the Olympics?
TEP: As I told you, about boxes of medals and this and that, I have stuff. My mom still, I found more stuff. I have all kinds, whether it’s just medals from my kayaking career, or the numbers you wore, or boxes of pictures that I’ve never done anything with, because I’m terrible that way. I wouldn’t say I … Yeah, a whole bunch. A lot of the clothes I have, that we would get, some I had to give away, because they got so old. Someone’s wearing an Olympic shirt from 1988 or something, from Goodwill. But yeah, I have a lot of clothes that I probably won’t wear, but just holding onto.
MK: Yeah, the Shoji boys talked about how much stuff they got.
TEP: Oh, you go there, and we would come from Europe, so we had a lot of stuff. Luckily they provided you with a UPS service that would ship back for free. So I sent boxes of the clothes, because you’d get a whole ‘nother bag of stuff. I mean, it’s ridiculous how much stuff you get.
MK: Well, they don’t want you to forget. What do you think was your biggest learning experience in your years of international competition?
TEP: Learning experience, gosh. Learning experience. Just that you can’t do anything without hard work that’s going to pay off, you have to put in the homework. You have to train hard. You have to train smart, is probably my best learning experience, smart. Like I said, I over trained, so, for me, training smart, and hard work, whether it be for paddling, racketball, surfing. You have to put in the homework. That’s what I’ve been trying to convey to all the girls since early time, when I came back. I say you guys have got to get in the weight room. You’ve got to get stronger. And what is Johnny Puakea saying, “you guys have got to get in a weight room. I’m like pfft, come on.
MK: Well now you’ve received lots of honors over the years. What was the most meaningful one you’ve received?
TEP: Probably the Winged “O”.
TEP: Because it’s where I grew up. This is where I grew up, and to be honored here, by the people who know me the best, and think I deserve to be amongst those elite athletes, and just human beings, is probably one of the most important ones, yeah.
MK: That’s wonderful. I’m sure they will appreciate you saying that. You’ve been paddling and racing for years, and how do you keep going at such a pace?
TEP: Now I don’t do quite the pace. Like I said, smarter.
MK: Well folks call you the Energizer Bunny.
TEP: Oh, really? Hmm. Well, I guess, because I’ve never really stopped. Well, I did for four years. I got really heavy. But I never really stopped in a sense that competitive part of not wanting to lose a lot of strength, not wanting to, if I did continue paddling, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the slowest person in the boat. If I’m going at a certain age, then I push other people. Hopefully they’ll be like, well she’s like 900 years old, but she’s still going. So, yeah, just to make sure that the younger girls know you’ve got to work hard. And I can still do it, you better be able to do it. So I guess it’s just not wanting to fall out of shape, and I see certain classmates, and I’m like okay, I’m a little trimmer than them. I’m going to stay that way.
MK: Well I remember when you first came back, after the Olympics. You went to work as a stevedore, down at the harbor.
MK: What kind of work are you doing now?
TEP: Actually, I work for my boyfriend. So it’s not exactly like a stevedoring work, which was fun and horrible at the same time. It was great. I met great people and I like the skills I learned. I became machine operator, so I could drive all the top loaders, all the different size forklifts. I can back, probably the only girl that can back in the (canoe) trailer down the (canoe) alley, because of backing up massive containers for ten hours a day into stalls. But now I work for my boyfriend, administrative work. He’s teaching me … he’s a CFO also, so I learn a lot from him. I do a lot of administrative work for his company he’s a CFO of, Lanikai Brewing Company. Shameless advertising there. So that’s what I do, I went from very extensive work, to now trying to think, what new files should I make for these, or should these get chronicled, stuff like that.
MK: A little different.
MK: Well, when we did Steve Scott’s oral history, he said that you were the most focused paddler he’d ever coached.
TEP: Oh, wow.
MK: And he said you had the best ability to visualize and replicate whatever he wanted you to do. And he said this is what you’re trying to teach to our paddlers today. How do you do that?
TEP: Saying it over and over, taking them in the trainer, trying to do what you’re supposed to do, which I still don’t have the best handle on. I’m actually learning, I think I do the stroke better now that paddling season’s over, than I did then, but you just got to do something, what do they say, 10,000 times. It’s repetition, it’s telling them. Now we use a lot of video, and they can see themselves, so that’s how we do it now. But analyzing, I’ve always been a technical person, whether it was racketball, kayaking, volleyball. I always got down to the technical part first, because you can’t do anything well unless you can get the technique down. The getting in shape part comes after, but if you can get that … and it’s never ending. You fix one part of a stroke, something else goes to hell, so it’s a never ending battle. So telling them, in their head, when they’re out on the water, you gotta be thinking of this at all times, not what you’re doing at work, an hour from now. If you’re here, you’re thinking technique. Kayaking, all you have is technique, because you’re tippy, and you have to make the boat go forward, and not this way and that. So every time you’re on the water it’s technical, so the same with paddling.
MK: Well now, when you came home after the Olympics, you joined the Club’s championship softball team, which was men only at that time. You were the only woman.
TEP: I didn’t really help that much.
MK: Well, you’re listed on all their trophies for winning the championships.
TEP: Well, I played, but yeah. I could throw, is what I could do. I could throw and catch. The batting part, I never grew up playing softball. I just had a good arm, and I loved the Yankees, so I watched the Yankees. But Bill Kilcoyne’s the nicest guy, and he wanted me to come out and play. I’m like alright, but I’ve never really played. I don’t even … So, it was fun. I mean, I got in a few games. And actually, I was in pretty much … because there was girls on the other teams too, really good girls. And I wish I had more time to bat, because I realized, as a girl, you can’t try and hit a home run, you’ve got to hit it down on the ground, away from people. Basically, that’s what you do as a girl, if you can’t hit home runs.
MK: Have you got any other sports on your horizon?
TEP: Other than getting back to surfing, one of the things I like to do was cross country skiing, so I did bring … I have a land cross country skiing, which are … you have real boots and poles, so you don’t have the baskets on, but I wanted to start doing that, cross country … I’d go around Kahala. It’s such a good workout, so it’s cross country skiing all over.
MK: Thank you, Tracy, for all the good memories of watching you, one of our Outrigger keiki, who grew up in front of our eyes, from a little surfer girl, into a world class athlete. Thank you. Thank you for giving back so much to the Club. You’ve really helping a whole new generation of athletes.
TEP: Sometimes. I feel like I can do more.
MK: That’s wonderful. And your mom has been a great supporter of yours through all of these athletic endeavors. How has she helped you?
TEP: I mean, just being a mom. She raised me by herself, pretty much. I had a stepfather for a short amount of time. Unfortunately, he passed away, but just being mom and dad, supporting me, obviously. She clothed me, fed me, and she did that even before I had sponsors, and just, no matter what I did, she was just proud of me, and that’s what moms do. She was just a mom, what you do with your daughter.
MK: Well, she was a super mom.
TEP: Yeah, and all those years I said, taking me from here to there to there. So, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been able to compete in multiple sports at the same time, and I think that led to being an all around, versatile athlete. And growing up here, like I said, everyone was good at everything. All the people I grew up with were good at volleyball, surfing, paddling. They were all excellent, so having them to compete against, pushed me to the level I was.
MK: Well, before we wrap this up today, are there any other Outrigger members that have helped you achieve your dreams over the years, anybody you’d like to recognize?
TEP: Well, the coaches I mentioned, Tiare, for asking me to be (Thomas’ nanny). She was instrumental. Kevin Olds, for showing me the K1, like I said. The bartenders, Chris, William, gosh, everyone here. Everyone here has always given me a good word or complimented me. Anyone I asked in the weight room, if I had a question at the time, in my formidable years, learning weights, everyone here helped me.
MK: The Club’s a village.
TEP: Yeah, the Club. It takes a village. Outrigger definitely helped me. There’s too many specific people, the people I mentioned, and it’s like winning an Oscar. You can’t go down the line of everyone who’s helped. It’s everyone.
MK: Do you have any advice to prospective Olympians?
TEP: Prospective Olympians, make sure you love that sport, and get the technical part down first. Don’t delve into trying to be … get in such great shape right away. Get the technical part down first. Get that down so you can always go back and check your mechanics, because that ultimately is what’s going to make you better. And then have good coaches, listen to your body, eat well. Do the work, you’ve got to do the homework. Nothing comes easy.
MK: Anything else that you’d like to add?
TEP: No. Thank you, Outrigger. Thank you, Marilyn. Thank you.
MK: Well, thank you, Tracy, very much.
TEP: Alright, thanks.
TRACY PHILLIPS ATHLETIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS
1988 (Seoul), Flatwater Kayak: 6th K-1 500, 9th K-4 500
1992 (Barcelona), Flatwater Kayak: 7th K-4 500, K-2 500 (5th in semi-finals)
1996 (Atlanta), Flatwater Kayak: K-1 500 (9th in semi-finals)
Pan American Games
1987 (U.S.), Flatwater Kayak: 1st K-1 500, 1st K-4 500
1995 (Cuba), Flatwater Kayak: 1st, K-2 500, 2nd K-4 500
U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team Spring National Championships
1989 1st K-1 500, 1st K-2 500, 1st K-1 5000
1990 1st K-1 500
1993 1st K-1 200 Senior Women,1st K-4 500 Senior Women
1994 1st K-1 200
Champion International Canoe and Kayak Knockout
1991 1st, K-2 200
1992 1st K-1 200, 3rd K-2 500, 2nd K-2 500
1993 1st K-1 200, 1st K-4 200, 2nd K-2 200
1994 1st K-1 200
1995 1st K-1 200, 1st K-4 200, 2nd K-2 200
Flatwater Sprint World Championships
1986 (East Germany) Didn’t qualify for finals.
1987 ( Spain) Didn’t qualify for finals.
1990 8th K-1 500
1991 (Paris) 7th K-1 500, 8th K-4 500
1993 (Denmark) 1st K-1 500
1994 (Mexico City)
1995 (Augsburg, Germany)
1994 4th K-1 500, 3rd K-4 500
International Canoe Regatta
1991 1st K-1 200, 2nd K-2 500, 1st K-4 500
International Canoe Federation Spring World Sprint Championships
1995 (Germany) K-4 (eliminated in semi-finals)
International Canoe Regatta of the Polish Canoe Federation
1991 3 Golds, 1 Silver
Hemispheric Qualifying Games
1996 1st K-1 500, 1st, K-2 500, 2nd K-4 500
U. S. Olympic Festival
1986 (Houston), 3rd K-1 1000, 2nd K-2 500, 1st K-4 500
1989 (Oklahoma City) 1st, K1 500, 2nd K-2 500
International Polynesian Canoe Racing Federation Sprint Championships
1984 1st K-1
1986 1st K-4 500, 2nd, K-2 500, 3rd K-1 500
1986-1996 Member, U.S. Women’s National Kayak Team
1987 Member, Elite USA Kayak Team (toured Europe)
1995 Member, U.S. Senior National A Kayak Team
1971 2nd Hawaii Junior Surfing Championships, G12-14
1972 5th Hawaii Junior Surfing Championships, G12-14
1973 3rd Queen’s Surf Meet, Women’s Division
1974 2nd Outrigger Canoe Club Surfing Championship, Open Women
1974 1st Waikiki Free Surfing Championship, Girls 10-15
1974 6th Makaha International Surfing Championships, Women’s Division
1975 2nd Kuhio Beach Surfing Meet
1976 3rd Hawaii Women’s Surfing Hui Makaha Contest, Girls 17&U
1976 3rd Chun’s Reef Surf Meet, Women’s Division
1977 1st Queen’s Surf Meet, Women’s Division
Hawaii Women’s State Sand Doubles Volleyball Championship
1977 1st with Kisi Haine
1979 1st with Rocky Elias
Hawaii State Racquetball Championship
1982 1st Women’s Open
1982 1st Women’s Doubles with Shizu Takeyasu
1983 1st Women’s Open
1983 1st Women’s Doubles with Shizu Takeyasu
1983 1st Mixed Doubles with John Britos
1984 1st Women’s Open
1985 1st Na Wahine Racquetball Tournament
Schoeber’s Christmas Racquetball Classic
1983 1st Class A Women’s Singles
Hawaii Canoe Racing Association Championships
1974 Girls 15
1975 Girls 15
1978 Sophomore Women
1984 Senior Women
1985 Senior Women
1997 Freshmen Women, Senior Women
1998 Senior Women
2003 Sophomore Women, Senior Women
2004 Senior Women
2017 Sophomore Women, Senior Women
Na Wahine O Ke Kai Canoe Races for OCC
1979 1st Place
1983 3rd Place
1984 1st Place
1985 1st Place
1986 3rd Place
1987 2nd Place
1992 1st Place
1993 2nd Place
1994 3rd Place
1995 2nd Place
1996 3rd Place
1997 3rd Place
1998 2nd Place (Waimanalo)
1999 3rd Place (Waimanalo)
2001 3rd Place
2003 2nd Place
2004 2nd Place (fastest OCC finish ever)
2005 3rd Place
2006 5th Place
2008 4th Place, 1st Women 40
2009 5th Place
2010 8th Place
2011 6th Place
2012 5th Place, 1st Women 40 (Hui Nalu 40s Revolusun)
2013 3rd Place (Hui Nalu Mike’s Revolusun)
2016 2nd Place
2017 3rd Place
Dad Center Long Distance Canoe Race
1977 1st Place
1978 1st Place
1979 2nd Place
1980 1st Place
1983 2nd Place
1984 1st Place
1985 1st Place
1992 1st Place
1995 1st Place
1996 1st Place
1997 1st Place
1998 1st Place (Waimanalo Canoe Club)
1999 2nd Place (Waimanalo Canoe Club)
2001 2nd Place
2003 1st Place
2004 3rd Place
2005 5th Place
2006 3rd Place
2008 4th Place
2009 4th Place
2010 4th Place
2011 4th Place
2014 4th Place, 1st Masters 40 (Hui Nalu)
2015 3rd Place
2016 2nd Place
2017 1st Place
Macfarlane Regatta Championships
1984 Sophomore Women
1985 Senior Women
1997 Open 4 Women
2001 Senior Women
2004 Senior Women
2005 Senior Women
2006 Masters 40
2009 Senior Women
2015 Senior Women
2016 Sophomore Women, Senior Women
2017 Sophomore Women, Senior Women
Leahi League Softball Champions
1976 John McMahon Junior Surfer of Year (OCC)
1987 U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team Female Athlete of the Year
1988 Honolulu Quarterback Club Athlete of the Year
1988 Women’s Sports Foundations Upcoming Award “Speed and Power” Category
1988 U.S. Olympic Committee Canoe/Kayak Athlete of the Year
1990 U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team Female Athlete of the Year
1992 Honolulu Quarterback Club Sports Person of the Month
1993 U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team Sprint National Champion
1993 Honolulu Quarterback Club Sports Person of Month
1993 Fastest Paddler in America
1994 Fastest Paddler in America
1995 Fastest Paddler in America
1996 Honolulu Quarterback Club Sports Person of Month
1996 Hawaii Sportswoman of the Year
2004 Outrigger Canoe Club Winged “O”
SERVICE TO THE OUTRIGGER CANOE CLUB
Canoe Racing Committee
OCC Women’s Head Canoe Racing Coach