Wrestler Sammy Steamboat promoted paddling
Sam Mokuahi Jr. / 1934-2006
His father was a legendary beachboy. So it is no surprise that Sam "Sammy Steamboat" Mokuahi Jr. followed in his wake, with a love for the water and a passion for canoe paddling that he taught to generations of children.
Mokuahi died May 2 at his Hawaii Kai home of complications from Alzheimer's disease, two days before his 72nd birthday.
"The number of people he has touched is way beyond my counting ability," said his daughter, Samantha "Sam" Mokuahi Moikeha. "The phone has been ringing nonstop. All kinds of people want to tell us, 'You know, your dad did this for me,' or 'I'll never forget the time ...' and they'll go into stories.
"We knew he did a lot of stuff, but he did it quietly. He'd help people on the street, take in stray animals. Nothing we hear about seems out of the ordinary, but it's on a scale much bigger than we thought."
At times Mokuahi seemed bigger than life. A large man with a gentle soul, he was a multisport athlete at Roosevelt before joining the pro wrestling tour in the 1950s, competing under the name Sammy Steamboat.
He was literally a huge name internationally, remembered by SLAM! Wrestling as one of the greatest grapplers ever to come out of Hawaii. A prodigy of Lord James "Talley-Ho" Blears, Mokuahi was a main-event headliner from the mid-1950s through the 1970s.
Sam Mokuahi Jr. was born in Honolulu. His father, the late Sam Sr., was one of the original Waikiki beachboys.
While many will remember Mokuahi Jr. as a star of Hawaii Wrestling at the old Civic Auditorium and Honolulu International Center arena, outrigger canoe paddlers know him for his tireless efforts in getting the sport sanctioned in public high schools.
He spent decades building and donating dozens of canoes, working with Na Opio to keep paddling alive in the public schools in hopes that there would be a state prep championship. A former coach for Hui Nalu and Outrigger, he was honored in March at the fifth state high school championship for his contributions.
"He was a hanai dad to me," said former Na Opio President Teddi Anderson. "Without him there would be no paddling in public high schools or state championship. There are so many canoes out there that have his signature on them that I couldn't begin to count."
Mokuahi is also survived by wife Sheryll; brothers Bernie Ching, Samson, Kevin and Shannon; children Sabrina, Micah, Kapena and Mitchell, Mekea Leoiki and Jessica Keys; and 12 grandchildren.
Tomorrow's memorial at Maunalua Bay Beach Park begins with an 8 a.m. visitation followed by a 10:30 a.m. service. A flotilla of canoes will accompany the scattering of ashes beyond the reef.
Attire is "whatever you feel comfortable wearing," Moikeha said. "That's what Dad wanted."