HUI WA'A CHAMPIONSHIPS
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
The North Shore Canoe Club won the freshman women event yesterday at the Hui Wa'a Championships at Keehi Lagoon.
Hui Wa‘a crews earn state spots
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Kaneohe Canoe Club remains the gold standard in Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa'a racing.
Kaneohe rolled to victory in customary fashion with nine wins in 39 events to capture its sixth straight league title yesterday in the Hui Wa'a Championships at Keehi Lagoon.
The club will take 14 crews to the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championships on Aug. 2, and drop down to compete in the AA (middle-size) class.
Coach Clint Anderson wasn't on hand to celebrate the victory, but club vice presidents Pua Kaiama and Sandra Kalahiki took the reins in his absence.
"Today was awesome," Kaiama said. "Everybody's preparing for states, putting everything into it."
Manu O Ke Kai took runner-up honors behind Kaneohe in the AAA (largest) division with 57 points, while Waikiki Beach Boys swept all AA events this year with an 11-point margin of victory over Lokahi.
Ka Mamalahoe won the A (smallest-class) division with 19 points over Kumulokahi-Elks' 16.
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It was do-or-die time.
Dozens of crews at yesterday's Hui Wa'a Championships at Keehi Lagoon were on the bubble for Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship selection, leading to some heart-pounding finishes among clubs in the stretch drive of the season.
Hui Wa'a receives three lanes in each event at the Aug. 2 state final at Keehi and, while dominant crews had locked up some or all of the berths weeks ago in many events, several solid teams remained in the hunt for a lane.
The biggest surprise of the day came from Windward Kai's men novice A team. The crew had just two third-place finishes to its name entering the day and trailed both Manu O Ke Kai and Kamehameha Canoe Club for the third and final berth.
But Windward Kai regrouped around the return of 5 seat Brian Ehrhardt and its time of 8 minutes, 0.11 seconds was enough by 10 seconds to qualify. The team tied in the overall standings with Manu and Kamehameha, but the higher placing yesterday was weighted for a state berth.
Nobody was more surprised than some members of the crew when they were informed they had qualified.
Ehrhardt, 26, and Russ Geraldi, 34, high-fived in the Windward Kai tent.
"Oh, definitely (we're surprised)," Geraldi said. "We didn't even race the first couple (regattas). Brian was outer-island, just got back, and we threw him in. I just want to do it -- I think it'll be a fun event. There's so many good crews, though."
Ehrhardt thinks it'll be the first time any of the crew will participate in a state race, something that had coach Derrell DeMello chuckling.
"Everybody has a shot," said DeMello. "Like I told these guys, 'You just gotta go hard.' And that's it."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL /
Kama Lee Loy, George Akau, Mike Gomes, Napua Canda, Koa Gomes and Laakea Caravalho won the men's sophomore event for Kai Poha.
In the women freshmen event, North Shore held third place overall entering the day by just a point over Manu O Ke Kai. The Haleiwa-based club's "veteran freshmen" crew of Judy Deal, Deidre Erickson, Sabrina Folgosi, Monique Forrest, Kimberly Walsh and Connie Williamson capitalized on a disqualification on the Waikiki Beach Boys -- who mistakenly started paddling to shore before everyone had finished -- to take first place in 8:55.67 and lock up a state berth with authority. Runner-up Lokahi also qualified.
"I told them this is do or die today," coach and club founder Donna Moore said. "That's it. No pressure."
Erickson, an eight-year club veteran and the steersperson, knows well her coach's mantra of the three A's: attitude, ability and attendance.
"We just gotta work together (for states), and the love of paddling and one another, the camaraderie for one another, that's what puts us over the top," Erickson said.
Kai Poha steersman Kama Lee Loy, 17, helped guide the men sophomore crew to a third-place finish -- enough to maintain their one-point edge over Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i at the start of the day.
Lee Loy already has three state victories from his time with Keaukaha Canoe Club on the Big Island, and can offer up some advice to his teammates for their big race two weeks away.
"I see crews lining up on the starting line ... huge," said the incoming senior at Kamehameha. "Sixteen-year-olds that line up that are monsters. They don't look 18; they don't even look 16.
"But the size in the boat doesn't matter," he continued. "I just recommend (to the others) is not to look around. Don't worry about the other boats. We're racing for us, we're racing for time. Nothing to do with whoever else is out there. It's all about us."
Waikiki Beach Boys head coach Sean Monahan was honored midway through the regatta with the Eric Rynearson Coach of the Year Award, and Waikiki was voted the Club of the Year. Both were repeat wins for Monahan and his club since electing to move up to the AA division last year.
"It's incredible. There's an awful lot of committed clubs and coaches down here," Monahan said. "Some pretty special awards."
The Beach Boys won their division in every official regatta this year, and even took home the overall Windward Kai Regatta last month.