Paddling to States

Races bring teams closer to island-wide competition.

By Jennifer Smith

“I want to see fire coming out of that paddle,” an excited crowd member screamed out to the Wa’akapaemua Canoe Club’s 15-year-old girls. Cheers and applause roared through the stands Saturday, as paddling fans came out in full force to support the teams at the third of four Molokai Canoe Racing Association (MCRA) regattas of the season.

Excitement was high as the day sealed the fate for many of the teams to go to the state competition in August.

Wa`a paddlers DJ Kaai and Tomba Heen couldn’t wait to get in the water and bring their team one step closer to Oahu. The two have paddled for several years now, and said the highlight of every season is traveling to the state competition. The 14 and 15 year olds smiled as they agreed that the tough competition was worth the opportunity to check out the girls on Oahu.

“We’re all good friends,” Kaai said, explaining that the team spends a lot of time together training. The boys said paddling provides them a way to stay in shape and stay out of trouble.

“I believe our group is so big because the coaching is there,” said Tania Kaholoaa, Wa`a girls coach. Growing up in a family of paddlers, she spent most of her summers at the wharf in outriggers canoes. 

Every year Kaholoaa plans on taking a break from coaching, but every year the kids ask her to come back. Despite a grueling 60 hour work week, she continues to dedicate an extra two hours a day, several days a week to help her girls.

With her lanes set for her 12, 13, 14, and 15-year-old girls’ teams to travel to Oahu in August, Kaholoaa is teaching her girls to enjoy the sport and push themselves to the next level. “It’s a stress release, it’s therapy.”

Adolph Helm and the Kukui O Molokai Canoe Club are looking to the future of the races. “We’re the young kids on the block,” he said.

The club began in 2002 with two borrowed canoes and a dream to cross the sometimes treacherous Kaiwi Channel. Today they are a 501(c)3, boasting five canoes and a program that encompasses more than regattas.

“We are trying to use wa`a as the center to our program to educate and do outreach work,” Helm said. The group is educating young keiki about the historical, cultural, and environmental surroundings of Molokai.

Kukui O Molokai has also received a significant grant from Maui County to begin the planning phases for building a halau near the wharf. It will take nearly a year to go through formal procedures such as getting an environmental assessment, but Helm is hopeful that construction will begin in 2010.

Stay tuned for the last regatta on July 19 to see who will make it to the state competition.

Protect our Paddlers
Several attendees at the last regatta noticed fish guts floating in the water. An instant red flag to people worried about the safety of the paddlers, the public is asking fishermen to please be careful about where they dispose of unused fish parts.

“Malama pono,” said ‘The Mayor of Molokai’  Keli`i Mawae. “This is a bad hazard for the kids.”


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