Channeling a United Community
Molokai’s gearing up for Na Wahine O Ke Kai and Molokai Hoe, the annual women’s and men’s canoe races from Molokai to Oahu, with the goals of celebrating the events and bringing the community together.
Kulaia, a ho`olaulea on Sept. 19 organized by Molokai Canoe Festivals Committee, will welcome paddlers coming to the island for Na Wahine O Ke Kai and pays tribute to the Molokai crewmembers on the three-year Worldwide Hokule`a Voyage. The festival will be held in front of the Molokai Public Library and aims to support Molokai’s economy and businesses with various vendors and booths lining the street, said event coordinator Lori-Lei Rawlins-Crivello.
While the festival is a tradition that hasn’t been carried on in recent years, organizers are seeking to return to the spirit of the celebration.
“We’re trying to bring back the whole meaning of how it used to be with Kulaia, which means a day of festivities, for the races,” Rawlins-Crivello said. “It’s all about bringing something positive to our community.”
Rawlins-Crivello said she hopes to bring the connection between the community, paddlers and the races back with Kulaia.
“Don’t just come to Molokai for the race,” Rawlins-Crivello said of the message they’re hoping to spread to visiting paddlers. “Stay and be a part of it. Meet the community and learn about Molokai. We want to enlighten, educate and raise awareness for our resources. The event will speak for itself and its purpose is to bring it all together.”
In the past, the Na Wahine O Ke Kai and Molokai Hoe have been a great community event, but more recently tensions have arisen surrounding the races, said Molokai paddler Penny Martin, a longtime Na Wahine O Ke Kai participant.
“It’s different from how it was before when I was younger,” Martin said. “Things are not as festive as they used to be. The race has grown; it’s so big and brings so many people to the island.”
The races attract paddlers from across the globe every year, and have transformed from a local event to an international affair. According to Martin, the main community concern with the races has been with the number of escort boats that come to the harbor and the impacts they have on the environment and Molokai’s fisheries. This has caused dissention in parts of the community, but work is being done to address it.
“If we continue to verbalize, meet together and involve the different people that are concerned in the races I’m sure we can come to an acceptable solution to the problem without jeopardizing the race,” Martin said.
Meanwhile, other preparations are also going on to get ready for the races. Na Wahine race coordinators are working to improve the historically rough Hale O Lono road.
While canoe clubs participating in the races have done some road repairs in the past, this year major potholes will be filled with cinder to improve the road and allow smoother transportation of canoes, said Haunani Olds, assistant race director, via email.
The use of cinder requires a Special Management Area minor permit, which was unanimously approved by the Molokai Planning Commission two weeks ago. Olds submitted the SMA permit request to improve road conditions for both race participants and the Molokai community, she said.
“Everyone will benefit,” Olds said. “Mahalo to Maui County and everyone involved who made this possible.”
Martin spoke on Olds’ behalf before the Planning Commission, testifying that the road is in disrepair, making it difficult to access the harbor.
“The condition of the road is a great challenge to anyone driving to Lono and can sometimes be damaging to trucks, trailers and canoes,” she said.
Molokai Ranch will donate cinder from their existing quarry on the west end. Molokai Ranch Operations Manager Dathan Bicoy and workers will bring cinder to the needed areas. As of now, seven trailers of cinder will be donated.
Na Wahine O Ke Kai will be Sept. 21 and Molokai Hoe will be Oct. 12.