Na Wahine Race Canceled

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Following the cancelation of the men’s Molokai Hoe canoe race in the fall because of COVID uncertainties, announced on Feb. 9, organizers of the women’s Na Wahine O Ke Kai race just announced this year’s wahine event will also be canceled. 

“With the dropping COVID numbers, we were optimistic that the event this year could be conducted for the women who participated in this world championship canoe race,” the race’s board wrote in a Feb. 22 letter. “However, the gracious Molokai community that plays such an important role in this race is still being impacted by numerous issues related to COVID, and our kuleana to them outweighed the decision to move forward with race plans.”

Carleen Ornellas, Na Wahine O Ke Kai president, said it was a difficult decision to cancel because of the “unparalleled commitment” of paddlers, organizers and supporters. 

“We all look forward to that time when our community emerges from this difficult time, strengthened in unity, kindness and aloha. The 2023 race is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023,” the letter concluded. 

“Mahalo to the organizers of the Na Wahine O Ke Kai championship race for canceling this year’s race,” wrote Molokai’s County Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez on her Facebook page.  “As an avid paddler myself, I know this was a difficult decision for the organization to make and for paddlers to hear. We all cannot wait to get back into the canoe and race across the Ka’iwi! But I am grateful for the respect that the organizers have shown to the Molokai community at this time.”

On Feb. 15, organizers of Molokai’s Kulaia Canoe Festival, an annual community celebration for the Na Wahine race, announced the event will also be postponed until next year. Molokai organizers stated on social media that an early decision needed to be made and there were “too many unknown variables on holding large events at this time.”


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