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Mark Sandvold


The OCC (Outrigger Canoe Club) has adopted the custom of having a memorial paddle-out service for its members. In the case of Mark Sandvold, Kahu Elias Parker performed the service on the water; it included the spreading of the ashes in the water. Family, friends and former teammates paddled and swam out with all kinds of ocean going crafts in honor of this most famous waterman.

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I was asked to speak at the memorial, held last Saturday (September 29, 2018). Here’s what I said…


(Hey-Now is a southern expression that calls attention to the moment).

I’m Brad Yates, Bates, Bra’da Brad

By way of introduction, I’m a coach and former Punahou teacher. I have known Mark as a student, a client, a dear friend, and finally a very special member of a very special group.

Knowing and working with Mark and his family and friends has been a highlight.

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate the life, the spirit and the love of Mark Sandvold.

Mark was a bull in competition. So strong in the water, quick and explosive, he had the ability to breathe – to engage, get up and express enormous amounts of fire and passion for as long as he needed.

Mark was a bull with an ever–present “rascal” smile on his face.

Mark could make everyone around him better -- and he could make everyone around him smile. 

Mark’s secret was that he spoke straight from his heart. The right stroke, form and tempo were feelings that expressed his passion for the sport and for life.

Mark could battle with resistance, the temptation to pull back, to let go or, God forbid, to give up.

When Mark began to lose his strength and endurance, and his breathing became compromised, he did not quit. He continued to battle, to stay present, be mindful of what was important and focus on his spirit and emotional growth.

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Around that time in Mark’s treatment Dr. Howie Klemmer suggested that we form a group to increase our support for Mark, the family and each other.

I told Mark of our plan and asked him who he wanted in the group: "my brother Todd," came his immediate reply, Howie Klemmer, of course; Alan Pflueger, for a 220-volt jolt of always-on positive energy; Matt Kresser (the historian and collector of humor); Dale Hope (his first coach), and MF, (Mike Field) (who took Howie’s spiritual direction and turned it into a vision to help Mark establish his direction and path back home with the God of his being).

As Mark’s battle continued, we never doubted the strength of his spirit. We also couldn't believe that he was able to continue to do battle.

After one very emotional trip to the hospital, Dale and I wondered out loud if we would ever see Mark again. I was emotional and confused as to what was expected. I prayed to my higher power to put me where I was needed. The next morning, Howie called with my assignment. “Mark cannot talk but he wrote out your name, he wants you to come.” My prayers were answered and the connection between all of us continued to tighten. Mark had a way of pulling us all in.

As Mark’s spirit became stronger, his mind became clear that his physical body had lost the battle and it was time to move on. His battle with cancer was over. He gently slipped into a comma and passed away in peace. Bravo! Mark, you finished the biggest race of your life with dignity, grace, and a style that was all you.

Thanks, Mark, for letting us be part of your battle and life. I will not forget you or let your spirit be forgotten. I also need to thank Lannette, the girls, Kiana, Malia and Eva, brother Todd, father Norris and mother Delores. You were all a huge part of the bull and his ability to battle. God Bless!

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It was really amazing to see how everyone contributed to make this such a fabulous celebration of Mark’s life and all that he accomplished.

Photos by Matty Schweitze