Okaya placed second in the Women’s Elite category and managed to raise $1,200 for charity in the process.
Okaya, an avid charity paddler, was one of over 100 paddlers from as far away as Hawaii who paddled their way around the waters of Manhattan in a grueling, 25-mile course that traverses some of the world’s most dangerous waters.
In the process, they raised funds to support various autism and environmental causes that protect the waters off the New Jersey coast and beyond.
This was Okaya’s third year tackling the event. She paddled the two SEA Paddle charity events, but has only been paddling for four years overall.
“I paddle throughout the year, but I condition myself for this event at least two months in advance,” she said. “Prior to the past two events, I got a group together to prepare for and participate in the event, which was helpful and made it a much more memorable experience.”
Originally born in Nagoya, Japan, Okaya grew up in Tokyo and now works as a translator. She enjoys paddling for recreation and fitness.
“While training and participating in the event is quite beneficial for improving your paddling skills and getting healthier and stronger, the most important thing that this event does is to bring people together and connect you with the environment,” Okaya said.
Okaya touched on the importance of setting personal goals to stay focused while training for the SEA Paddle
“The distance can be overwhelming and the conditions may be discouraging, but keep breathing and paddling and you’ll get there,” she said. “There’s nothing like circumnavigating Manhattan, it’s the best way to see New York City.”