NA KEIKI O KA MO'I REGATTA
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Crew members of Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i congratulated each other after completing the mixed masters race yesterday.
Youths lead Kaneohe to victory
Na Keiki O Ka Mo‘i canoe club honors its founding father
STORY SUMMARY »
| READ THE FULL STORY
Maybe it had something to do with the incentive.
Kaneohe rode its strong youth program to five wins in the first six events of the day and handily won the Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i Regatta yesterday at Ma'ili Beach.
Coach Clint Anderson could breathe a sigh of relief over his club's 75 points (a 19-point margin of victory over runner-up Manu O Ke Kai), in stark contrast to close overall scores over the last two weeks, including a rare defeat for the five-time defending Hui Wa'a champions.
Anderson promised his club's kids some time to enjoy the churning Ma'ili waves if they delivered with points.
"We got good waves out there for surf for the bodyboard kids," he said. "If they do good, they all can go swim. That's the reward for the kids today."
It was especially crucial since he did a lot of new mixing and matching with his young teams, testing combinations, before the upcoming HCRA State Championships Aug. 2.
Kaneohe captured 10 of 39 events.
Waikiki Beach Boys claimed the AA (middle-size) division with 50 points over runner-up Lokahi (45), while Kumulokahi-Elks edged North Shore in the A (smallest) class 21-17.
FULL STORY »
After three long years, the weight is off its shoulders.
Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i, the host club of yesterday's Hui Wa'a regatta at Ma'ili Beach, honored the completion of its refurbished and rejuvenated koa canoe, the 'Uhane O Pauahi, before competing in it for the first time in more than a decade.
Perhaps best of all, the club's founder, Rona Ka'aekuahiwi, was along for the ride.
The club, based at nearby Pokai Bay on the Leeward Coast, is now coached by three of the late Ka'aekuahiwi's four children -- head coach Dude and assistants Lisa and Danon.
Along with the fourth sibling, Nalei, and five of Rona's grandchildren, they ventured out on the Ma'ili waters with Rona's ashes before yesterday's regatta began.
"When he passed away (in October 2005) he wanted us to spread his ashes in this koa canoe," Lisa said after Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i placed fourth in the mixed masters (40-and-older) event. "So that was why we had to get the koa canoe finished -- because he told us that's what he wanted, we had to get the boat fixed."
It was a painstaking process. The canoe sat dormant for more than 10 years before work began to reshape it to meet current specifications, identical to those of OHCRA, which are strict. The boat was thought to be completed by canoe builders Phillip and Meriam Naone, with the help of Eric Soo as recently as two weeks ago, only for them to discover the width of a single section of the canoe was a fraction of an inch off.
Work began anew. And after a total of $8,000 was invested to get the total job done, 'Uhane O Pauahi was ready at last.
"We've been waiting a long time for this to happen," Dude said. "It was touching, a big burden lifted, getting it done. This was my dad's dream. And that dream is coming true."
Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i used a mixture of its koa and fiberglass canoes yesterday, but intend to fully incorporate 'Uhane O Pauahi in each regatta until the end of the season.
While the majority of Hui Wa'a clubs still use its favored fiberglass canoes, about eight or nine of the 17 clubs have a koa canoe in use from time to time. Dude is hopeful that other Hui Wa'a clubs will follow the same example of relying more heavily on koa.
"A lot of the clubs are waiting for the other clubs to start using their (koa) canoes all the time," he said. "Once they see us using our boat, they say they're going to start using theirs."
Rona's children are saving another day to spread their father's ashes, Lisa explained, "because today was for the boat. We'll have another ceremony, then we'll spread his ashes."
Their morning venture with him on the water was a fitting and emotional journey.
"I don't think there was a dry eye out on the beach," she said. "We were crying in the boat, and singing 'Hawaii Aloha,' his favorite song. That's all you could hear when we were paddling out there."
After that, it was time to put the canoe to a true test against the other clubs.
Between the strong Ma'ili current and the different feel of the koa canoe, it was a challenging day for Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i, which won the senior mixed masters and women sophomore events. It placed third in the AA (middle-size division with 36 points, behind Waikiki Beach Boys (50) and Lokahi (45).
It took a little getting used to for steersperson Al Momoa, who has been with the club for more than 20 years and paddled in 'Uhane O Pauahi in its previous incarnation.
"It feels way lighter right now, real high on the water," she said. "The reaction, you have to be quicker. In the fiberglass, you don't have to be as quick, because it doesn't move around as much. I was steering a LOT."
Despite that, she felt confident the Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i crews can adapt in the two final regular-season regattas before the Hui Wa'a championships.
"Oh yeah, it'll be nice," Momoa said. "We did real well, and it brought all of us together."
Five-time defending champion Kaneohe won the overall regatta and AAA (largest) division with 75 points, while Manu O Ke Kai followed with 56. Kumulokahi-Elks edged North Shore in the A (smallest) class, 21-17.