Meet the Coaches

A large round of applause to coaches, who selflessly volunteer their time and talent to the paddlers of Pale Kai. This is an enormous undertaking that often takes away from a coach’s own paddling time. While there are standards in technique that Pale Kai adheres to, as in every sport, each coach has their own style of coaching. If you have any questions about your crew’s training, please feel free to discuss it with your coach or with the Head Coach.

Coaches face the difficult decision each race day of determining which six paddlers will be selected to participate in the race. Understand that coaches struggle to find a balance of what will provide successful racing results for Pale Kai (as a competitive club) as well as give as many paddlers as possible a chance to compete in a race. In many cases, it takes years for paddlers to find themselves at a competitive level. We encourage paddlers to not be discouraged, but to continue the sport. Sometimes you’ll find that one extra season is a difference in making crew on race day.

Jean Spear

Head Coach

Jean started paddling at age 11 in Newport Beach at the Newport Aquatic Center. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with paddling and being on the water. In junior high Jean received multiple awards at the Canoe and Kayak Nationals in K1, K2, and K4. In high school, Jean trained at the San Diego Olympic training center with top trainers from throughout the United States. During high school, she transitioned into rowing where she qualified for Nationals in Varsity 8+ and 2x. In college, Jean rowed for UCLA but always returned home in the offseason to compete with the NAC Outrigger Team.

After graduation, Jean traveled to Hawaii to live and train with local outrigger teams and race Molokai and other local races like Na Pali Coast Challenge. After returning home Jean moved to Los Angeles and started paddling with Lanakila in Redondo Beach. Here she competed for 7 years with their top Women’s crew. With this crew, Jean raced Catalina Crossing winning 4 championships, 5 Ironman Championships, Molokai - Na Wahine O Ke Kai, Pailolo both Iron and 10man taking 1st Place, Olamau taking 3rd Place, and The Gorge taking 1st Place. Jean moved to the Central Coast in 2016 and started her first year coaching with PKO in 2017. She enjoys taking all of her experiences in paddling and passing it along to the next generation of paddlers.

Jon Hergert

Mens Coach

Jon Hergert, aka Neon Jon, has been a waterman and around waves his entire life which has been a big help to his paddling. Of course, the first 20 years or so, the "water" was of the irrigation canal variety back on the farm in Nebraska and the "waves" were of the "amber waves of grain variety." Shovels, paddles, they both have blade and shafts and they kinda work the same! First actual contact with Pacific Ocean was when he joined Pale Kai in 2014 so apparently persistence, stubbornness, and effort can make up for a lack of talent and previous experiences. It's either that or people think you must be good at it because you work so hard trying to do it.

Making up for lost time, Jon was the Equipment Manager in 2015, Club President in 2016, and has been the Men's coach 2017, 2018, and will continue to be the Men's coach for 2019.

Neon has raced in OC6 and OC1 all over the west coast and even in Hawaii. His favorite races are the most helpful races and those are usually the ones that turned out to be the biggest train wrecks where life presents you the opportunity to learn an important lesson or lessons. Although we always strive for the perfect race, perfect performance, we learn best through our mistakes. Paddling is only fun when you are learning something, when you stop learning, it's just a bunch of work.

Neon still working hard for the perfect race, perfect performance for himself and others but secretly hopes never to find it.

Bonnie Lyons

Womens Coach

Bonnie came to paddling after an extensive competitive aquatic/water background which included lifeguarding, sailboat racing, swimming (age group and college – UCLA), and waterpolo.

After trying her hand at various adult recreational league sports including tennis, soccer and beach volleyball while raising her 3 kids, Bonnie heard about a local outrigger team that was starting practices and decided to go and check it out.  One practice and she was hooked.  Bonnie has been paddling since 2008. She has had many opportunities to race since then including all of the SCORA races and the Catalina Crossing.  She also has competed in many Northern California races including Monterey, Santa Cruz, Alcatrez, Angel Island, Tahoe (both north and south) and Monterey Crossing where she was part of a record breaking open coed team that included 3 other Pale Kai members. She has also had opportunities to race outside of California in Arizona (ADR), the Columbia River Gorge and Hawaii (Queen Liliuokalani, Pailolo Challenge, Na Wahine O Ke Kai and the Na Pali Challenge- where her team was 1st in the over 55 category). 

Bonnie shared her love of the sport with her husband Patrick ( a former Pale Kai coach) who joined the team after seeing how passionate she was about the sport.  They have enjoyed training, traveling and racing together over the past 10 years.  Bonnie feels that paddling is a sport that not only challenges you physically with an incredible workout but is also good for your soul- “time on the water brings a renewal to your mind and body and I would like to encourage everyone to come and try it out”.


Don Tran

Novice Coach

Don started paddling with Pale Kai in 2014 as a Novice at the age of 39. He volunteered as the Assistant to the Assistant Novice Coach (AANC) last year. Through hard work and the love of the sport, Don was elected as the new Novice Coach for 2019! Coach Don is excited to share his knowledge and passion for the sport. His coaching philosophy is having fun, working hard, and being safe!


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