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From the pool to the high seas

Former Albion swimmer Zane Havens has his sights set on a canoe trip around the world

Zane Havens has traveled a long way via water – and while he may have completed only a relatively short part of the journey as a swimmer and diver at Albion, his student-athlete experience is helping propel him around the globe.

The 2012 graduate has pursued competitive aquatics not only in the pool, but also as a triathlete and in canoeing, following in the wake of a trio of family Olympians – his grandfather, great-uncle and father, former Albion swimming and diving coach Keith Havens.

As an undergraduate studying environmental science, Zane paired his love for the water with concern for the environment, receiving funding from an Albion foundation to study the cloudiness of water in the Kalamazoo River. That led to a Geological Society of America internship with the Bureau of Land Management, monitoring streams near Grand Junction, Colorado.

During the past year, however, Havens has logged many more miles pursuing his passions – and showing quite an adventurous streak, to boot.

Last summer, he served on the crew of the Hikianalia, a 72-foot-long voyaging canoe operated by the Polynesian Voyaging Society that sailed from Oahu to the island of Hawaii as part of a 1,000-mile circumnavigation of the Hawaiian archipelago. In addition to serving as quartermaster for the canoe, responsible for managing supplies of food and water, Havens also took turns manning its sweep (a steering mechanism) and trimming its sails.

Now, he is awaiting confirmation of selection for the crew for the 62-foot Hokulea’a, the Hikianalia’s sister canoe, for an unprecedented round-the-world journey by both vessels that will begin with a segment this year from Hawaii to Tahiti, and then continue westward through 2017.

Sailors on voyaging canoes, which were instrumental in populating the Hawaiian islands centuries ago, used celestial navigation to journey across the South Pacific. The crews of the Hokulea’a and Hikianalia rely on traditional navigational methods as much as possible, but also use some necessary modern technologies. Hokulea’a is equipped for safety with VHF radio and running lights among other electronic devices, all of which are powered by solar panels mounted on the canoe’s stern

“However, she has been successfully navigated using only traditional methods – celestial, current and swells, observation of birds, etc. – many times,” Havens told Bobby Lee, Albion director of news and sports information, in a feature published during the twin-hulled canoes’ voyage around Hawaii.

Hikianalia has electric motors and global-positioning and automatic-identification systems. “She is designed to be a companion to Hokulea’a, embracing traditional design while still offering a platform to connect with the outside world and perform research,” Havens said.

Much like his time as a student-athlete at Albion, the pending canoe voyage offers Havens an opportunity to combine his love for the water and concern for the environment, but on a grander scale. He would conduct graduate research during the trip into patches of plastics floating in the ocean – an emerging global problem.

Meanwhile, the former student-athlete whose journey through Albion included 1- and 3-meter dives and 50-yard sprints, already has come a long way.

“This experience really has been one of the best of my life so far,” Havens told Albion’s Lee. “It is far from being over, but I feel that I have learned so much in the few months that I have been here, and I am sure to learn more. Seeing the world while contributing to such a noble cause was an easy choice for me.”