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RIP Mark Sandvold

Mark Sandvold passed away at home on September 1, 2018. He is survived by his wife, Lannette, three children, Kiana, Malia and Eva, his brother Todd, his father, Norris and mother, Delores. He was 52.

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Mark was an elite athlete, a great coach and a loving man fueled by passion.

Elite Athlete

Mark was the definition of an ocean athlete who loved to battle and take care of his team in the process. He was a bull, strong in the water, and he loved to push the limits of what was possible. At the end of his life, as he lost his strength, his endurance, and his breathing was compromised, he continued to battle. In this way he taught all of us who were close to him what it really means to be a bull -- to be present, mindful of what is important, and focused on taking care of his spirit, the one element that he could control. All the while dealing with the presence of pain and discomfort.

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"Mark Sandvold was only guy that had the skills, energy and personality to make this photo represent our brand. I’m grateful to Darrell and Mark for creating such a unique and memorable moment.”

Dale Hope, Ocean Athlete, Author, Coach (Mark’s at age 16), Family Friend, World Famous Curator of Aloha Shirts

Picture courtesy of Darrell Wong –– Location: Tongg’s, a surf spot close to the Outrigger on the way to Diamond Head

Great Coach

When Mark asked me to be his coach, what he really wanted was to improve his ability to love his family and friends -- and be a better coach. Mark simply loved people, and they loved him. As an athlete he knew how to use his breathing to settle down and then operate at all levels of intensity when needed. As a son, husband, father, coach, brother and friend he learned to breathe so he could do a better job of listening and interacting with the people he loved. In the end the elite athlete who loved to battle in competition became the humanist who wanted to teach principles, and change the lives of the people he cared for. Whenever we were alone, no matter how much pain he was in, he always asked about my family and me. When I gave him praise his appreciation was sometimes limited to that signature move he did with his eyebrows.

Loving Man Fueled by Passion

Mark’s performance profile was that of a free spirit. He was extremely creative and emotional. His scope of life contained all of the things he wanted to do. He had a huge need to be free to do exactly what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. When he could be engaged and inspired and settled in his favorite activities, he was at the top of his game. When he wanted to focus, he could. He did a “Molo” crossing at the age of 16 – the bull in the making.

With age came maturity and he learned to take on responsibilities and maintain the passion for all of the activities that became his life. In a word, Mark was about passion and the ability to express it. What Mark leaves me with is a burning memory of how hard he battled to live, to love, and to learn how to be a spiritual being when that was all he had left. As Mark’s spirit continued to strengthen and his mind became clear – his physical body had lost the battle and it was his time to move on. His 6-year battle with cancer was over. He gently slipped into a coma and passed away in peace. Bravo! Mark you finished the biggest race of your life with the dignity, grace and style that was all you.

Thanks, Mark, for letting me to be part of your life and battle. I will never forget you and the lessons. Love, Brad.

You were HiLevel!

To read about Mark and his success as a World Class Waterman and coach go to the link below that details why he was chosen to receive the prestigious Outrigger Winged “O" Award click HERE.

I reached out to some of the people who knew Mark and asked them for some words on what he meant to them. Here is what they said...

Dear Coach Mark,

You were loved by everyone without a doubt. Thank your for always having me over at your house, being a second Dad whenever I needed one, always giving me the prerace speeches and when I was a nervous wreck you were the one who made me calm and forget my worries. You made me a better person and would always tell me what to focus on, who I should and shouldn’t surround myself with, and to never give up in life/school but especially in races. Without you I would not have the love for paddling, Thank you for doing all that you have done for everyone and me. I love you Uncle Mark, forever and always, rest in love.

Ollie Hope, 14

(Mark was her coach)

Dear Mark,

You are one of the nicest individuals I have ever known. You supported me when I began my quest to save the ocean through long distance OC1 paddles throughout the state. You would participate in helping me finish the last parts of them in Waikiki. You always had the biggest smile and wanted everyone to do their best. You were a phenomenal athlete who strived to help others to be the best they could be whether adults or the kids you coached. You never yelled but inspired through your presence and being.You are one of those individuals that I will never forget and I will keep your memories alive. I could never say enough about you and as I write this with a heavy heart you will be missed by me more than you could ever know.

Donna Kahakui

Close friend/training partner

Brother Mark,

I’m saddened by your passing! I competed against you, competed with you and I have always been impressed with you as an athlete and as a coach. You had a special way of communicating your passion for the sport. Your feelings for the proper form and the right amount of intensity were contagious. You spoke softly and your message came straight from your heart. People that paddled with and for you all got the message. Our sport is about the passion it takes to paddle hard and paddle right and be competitive. You were one the best ever at communicating that message. You made everyone boat better.


Thibert Lussiaa (T–Bear)

Competitor, teammate, close friend

Dear Mark,

You were a dear friend and huge source of support for my family and me. Your passing is a painful loss for us. I’m grateful that you were able to teach the girls in our program the value of hard work and the need to build solid relationships and be team. Your contribution in this way has proved to be invaluable. Thank you for being you. Rest In Peace.


Siana Austin

Family Friend

Dear Mark

Sitting in a quite place on my property and thinking about you and the fact that the line up in the heavens just got one of the last of the old school bulls!!You are an amazing man and a great old friend. You are way too young to be finished. And yet I am sure all over this planet many of the people you have influenced are raising a toast to you and all that you have accomplished. I love you Mark – no need to say RIP as my guess is you are already out in the lineup encouraging others to charge!!! Your ability to encourage others and to reach out to me when I really needed it was as they say, you showing your real colors. At your core you are one beautiful man.


Bruce Gordon

Classmate at Punahou


You have never lost the infectious grin. Through numerous athletic accomplishments and professional achievements, you have always been real with your teammates and friends.

You had an unusual way of coaching, it was non-militant style, it came from your very happy and intensely competitive spirit.

You uplifted hundreds of paddlers of all ages for many decades.

You created a sense of calm what ever the situation might be.

You kept it fun, instilled confidence, and the crews that paddled for you often brought home a gold medal to you on the waters edge. You were a life coach for many of the athletes that paddled with you and for you. I remember over 30 years ago you shared a technique with me that one of your professors taught you in class. I still use that methodology in my daily life, and think of you every time I apply it to what I am doing. You have inspired us all in and out of the ocean, and you will never be forgotten…Love You MS!

Dale Hope

Coach, lifetime friend

Mark Sandvold

Coach Mark was unlike any coach I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. His passion for paddling was incredibly contagious and helped many others and me to gain both an appreciation and love for the sport.

Kaya Lee, 17

Coached in Summer of 2016

Mark Sandvold

I did not really know Mark but the stories about him being such a phenomenal waterman are a real source of motivation for me. I especially like how his fire and passion made everyone in the boat better. He was so mellow on land and then when it was time to work hard he could really battle. I’m grateful that he set such a high standard of performance. Gives us all something to shoot for.

Hunter Pflueger

Next Level Performer

Dear Mark,

Thank you for inviting me to help you coach the “young” girls at the OCC paddling program. I learned so much from you on how to make it fun for girls that had not previously competed in Ocean Races. Your fire and passion for canoe paddling and the acceptance and love you had for the girls was reflected in how they responded to you. Together we nurtured these 12 and under girls into top paddlers. They went from learning how to paddle to loving the competition. I’m proud to carry on the traditions that we established. We will surely miss your presence and do our best to keep your positive energy and love for paddling alive.


Andrew Glatzel

Assistant Coach and lifetime friend

Mark Sandvold

Mark was an emotional athlete. He had an amazing capacity to get fired up and get the people around him fired up. I’m proud that Mark took the lessons about hard work, discipline and respect that we all learned from my dad, Jimmy, that my dad in turn learned from the Duke that fostered his competitive nature, sharpened his skills and refined his spirit!

Alan Pflueger

Teammate and lifetime friend