By Kyle Galdeira, Special to the Star-Advertiser, 10 July 2022
While school is still out for summer, the “old school” approach of Na Keiki O Ka Mo‘i Canoe Club was in full force on Saturday.
Hosting its own regatta and peeved by a string of second-place finishes caused by mental errors that cost the club valuable team points, Ka Mo‘i was buoyed by the old-school approach of veteran head coach Lisa Ka‘aekuahiwi.
The longtime skipper and paddler had her cowbell and bullhorn (although her paddlers noted they could hear her voice loud and clear without the noisemakers) and helped her club’s crews analyze video of previous races to fine-tune their performances leading up to Saturday’s regatta.
“This is our house, and I just tried to install that into the club all week long, telling them this is our homecoming in our backyard, and we need to school the competition,” Ka‘aekuahiwi said. “We’re not giving them an inch, not giving them a second. The last two weeks, we lost because of points taken away, and I didn’t want any screw-ups today. My club stepped up, and I’m super stoked. You always want to do well in our race, and that’s extra special to me.”
The approach worked, as Ka Mo‘i defended its home beach and waters to claim Na ‘Ohana O Na Hui Wa‘a’s Na Keiki O Ka Mo‘i Regatta held amid flat seas and steady breezes at Maili Beach. Ka Mo‘i jumped out to a blazing start – nearly as hot as the sun-soaked sand — with wins in nine of the day’s first 12 races, and 15 of the first 28, to establish a commanding 150-103 advantage over Manu O Ke Kai.
Na Keiki O Ka Mo‘i finished the day with a season-high 17 wins, and 29 medals (first-, second- and third-place finishes combined) en route to a 194-165 victory over Manu O Ke Kai in the AAA Division (25-plus events).
“We moved crews around and stepped up, and we did it. In the beginning of the year, we didn’t know what we would have because of (the two-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic),” Ka‘aekuahiwi said. “We ended up getting a good turnout from our kids, and our ‘OGs,’ our 60- and 65-year-old paddlers who compete early in the morning, came out banging, and everybody did their job today.”
Manu, the three-time defending Hui Wa‘a champion, notched 11 victories on the day, but the effort was not enough to overcome Ka Mo‘i’s stellar start. Manu has won 25 of the organization’s last 27 regattas dating back to 2017.
Lokahi dominated the AA Division (13-24 events) with 84 points and held off ‘Alapa Hoe (60 points), Waikiki Yacht Club (57 points), Kane‘ohe (49 points) and I Mua (26 points).
Hale‘iwa Outrigger claimed the A Division (up to 12 events) title with 50 points, while Lahui O Ko‘olau (32 points), Waikiki Beach Boys (27 points), Kamehameha (24 points) and Windward Kai (19 points apiece) were next in the small-club division.
Nearly 1,400 competitors ranging in age from 12-and-younger to 70-and-older represented Hui Wa‘a’s 19 clubs in 43 races spanning ¼ mile to 1½ miles.
Winning crews earned seven points toward the team standings, while second- through sixth-place finishers were awarded 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points.
In addition to competing for championship medals in individual races, crews continued tallying points with hopes of qualifying for slots at the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship regatta scheduled for Aug. 6 at Keehi Lagoon. The top three crews from each Hui Wa‘a event earn automatic berths in the state competition based on cumulative point standings.
“I was telling our coaches that we needed to move crews and paddlers around to get points, and we made it happen,” said Ka‘aekuahiwi, who paddled in her club’s victorious women’s 55 and mixed 55 crews. “Everybody worked on what we went over in practice, so we knew what we had to do, and we did it!”
Unlike races held at Keehi Lagoon, where paddlers race parallel to the shore, Saturday’s event was set up perpendicular to the sand as crews started just off the beach, raced straight out to the ¼-mile flags and turned back to finish at the original starting line. Paddlers noted that while waves were not an issue, conflicting currents proved tricky as the water became “sticky” at some points throughout the course.
Hui Wa‘a paddlers return to action on Saturday at Waikiki Beach for the Waikiki Beach Boys Regatta, an exhibition contest preceding the organization’s championship regatta scheduled for July 23 at Keehi Lagoon. Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association crews continue their season on July 17 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii with the John D. Kaupiko Regatta.