As Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association regatta season approaches, veteran crews are making final adjustments while keiki paddlers practice their new skills.
The season kicks off Saturday morning with the John Wilmington III Memorial Regatta in Kahului Harbor hosted by the Na Kai Ewalu Canoe Club.
“Excitement is in the air, right, all the big clubs are making the final adjustments to their crews and you know, everyone is excited to start another season.” said MCHCA President Keone Ball. “Super exciting, it’s back in full force right after that whole COVID thing. They are not excuses, true, it is about going out and competing ”.
Ball, who has been a rower at Na Kai Ewalu since he was 7 years old, said canoe racing is an important part of the community.
“Every year I say the same thing, but you know, it’s basically the big family of canoeing, right? Because we have 5-year-olds to 80-year-old rowers”, he said. “So you have your keiki and your kupuna and you have your aunts and uncles and although they row vigorously against each other, in the end it is one big happy family.”
Kihei Canoe Club trainer Kawika Williams, who will also be seen leading the 60-man crew, said Wednesday morning by phone that “everyone is excited” compete again this summer.
“Yes, you know how it gets before the first regatta”, Williams said. “Everybody’s getting seeds out and getting ready for trials and all that.”
There are plenty more keiki rowers this year for KCC, he said, which is what regatta season is all about.
“Most of the clubs originated with kids in mind, to keep kids off the street and to socialize with people, play a Hawaiian sport, you know, all that good stuff.” he said. “As for the adults, it’s just playing for the adults, keeping fit, rowing and pushing yourself to be better.”
The South Maui club will compete with two values in mind: resilience and perseverance. Last year, KCC dealt with two record storm surges and two floods that damaged its club’s beach in Ka Lae Pohaku and buried canoes in the mud, but members banded together to restore sand and salvage canoes.
“The club went through a lot last year,” Williams said, noting that the beach is in good shape this season and that the rowers are ready to start racing.
Hawaiian Canoe Club won its first MCHCA championship in 1985 and has claimed the title every year since.
Each season, the clubs look forward to getting back on the water and fighting for a state seed: Maui County is allotted two lanes per event for the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state regatta that is scheduled for Aug. 5 in Hilo.
“Each club has its specialty”, said HCC coach Paul Lu’uwai. “So it’s not easy to qualify outside of Maui, it’s very difficult. You have to be pretty good to get out of Maui.”
Although there is a lot of work ahead, Lu’uwai said. “I am very excited.”
“Like every other coach, you know, we’re never really satisfied.” added. “It’s hard to know where we are compared to other clubs because we haven’t raced yet. Saturday will be, like, the telltale sign early on. It’s like a great game of chess.”
Powered by the club’s Hawaii Kamali’i Summer Enrichment Program, HCC is fielding around 200 keiki paddlers this summer, more than any previous season in Lu’uwai’s 40-year career.
“I’m excited to see the kids in the water and see the fruits of their labor,” he said. “They have been working hard…. I just hope they perform well and do well in this first race, and I know they are very excited.”
* Dakota Grossman is at [email protected].
Saturday: John Wilmington III Memorial Regatta in Kahului Harbor
June 10: Moki Kalanikau Regatta at Hanakao’o Beach Park
June 17: Mayor’s ‘Umeke at Kahului Harbor
June 24 – John M. and Kealoha Lake Regatta in Kahului Harbor
July 8 – Kamehameha Regatta in Kahului Harbor
July 15: Keiki O Maui Regatta at Hanakao’o Beach Park
Jul 22: Dougie Tihada Memorial Regatta (MCHCA Championship) at Hanakao’o Beach Park
August 5 – Hawaii Canoe Racing Association State Race in Hilo Bay, Hawaii
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