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Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, January 22, 2001

C A N O E _ P A D D L I N G

By Ronen Zilberman, Star-Bulletin
Team Matson paddles on the Ala Wai Canal.

Ala Wai race revives
Hawaiian traditions

Nainoa Thompson steered
for some of the crews

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

It wasn't exactly the Hawaiian navigation to which Nainoa Thompson is accustomed.

But the Sheraton Waikiki/Royal Hawaiian Hotels crew did use quick reflexes to keep its boat on course in winning the adult canoe portion of the 16th Annual Ala Wai Challenge yesterday at the Ala Wai Canal and Park.

Thompson, this year's event honoree, pioneered the revival of ancient Polynesian ocean wayfaring and has served as Hawaiian master navigator and captain of the voyaging canoe Hokulea.

As Sheraton Waikiki/Royal Hawaiian Hotels neared the quarter-mile finish line with a comfortable lead in the final, the canoe's ama (float) suddenly began to lift out of the water about 30 yards out, threatening to flip the boat.

The entire crew quickly leaned toward the ama and the paddlers in the middle shoved the iako (rigging beams) back down, avoiding a dip in the canal. They had to stop paddling momentarily, but recovered in time to hold on for the victory.

"That was the whole team, one man can't do anything about that," said four seat Matt Trumbull. "It was a little hairy. But the crew was just really working together all day and it was fun out there."

Indeed, the Challenge was more for fun and celebration than competition, with all proceeds benefiting the Waikiki Community Center.

"For us people of Hawaiian ancestry and those who deeply care about this history of the place we live in, we are who we were," said Thompson, who steered for some of the crews yesterday. "So being connected to our past is really being connected to ourselves.

"This is a celebration of our ancestry, a celebration of the richness of our culture and history. When we honor these traditions, we honor ourselves."

Sheraton Waikiki/Royal Hawaiian won its two preliminary heats en route to victory in the adult canoe final. Rounding out the field in the final, Outrigger Hotels 1 finished second, Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center third and Hawaiian Electric fourth.

This year's event also included a Na Opio (junior) canoe division for the first time in honor of Thompson's role in the education of students of navigation.

In the Na Opio final, a crew of students from Kamehameha Schools sponsored by Bill Yuen, Esq. was the winner. They won by a boat-and-a-half margin over second-place McInerny. This Week Magazine finished third and Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center fourth.

The Yuen crew also won its two previous heats en route to victory in the final.

"We felt good and our team was strong," stroker Kapena Kimball said. "(Thompson's) our new (Kamehameha Schools) trustee and I felt real proud to paddle."

The other portion of the adult competition at the Challenge was the makahiki (ancient Hawaiian games). These included ulu maika (bowling), oo ihe (spear throw), ho o ikaika (shot put), moa pahee (torpedo slide) and huki kaula (tug of war).

The huki kaula was the Challenge's final contest, after the other makahiki and the canoe races were completed. Only the top four teams -- after the earlier makahiki and canoe races were cumulatively scored --participated in the huki kaula.

After a brief stalemate, Sheraton Waikiki/Royal Hawaiian tugged Royal Guard Security across the center line in the huki kaula final to walk away with the overall as well as canoe portion top awards. Bank of Hawaii defeated Outrigger Hotels 1 in the consolation final for third place overall.

"I came straight from work at 8 o'clock this morning since the guys needed some extra guys," said Sheraton Waikiki's Jeremy Franks, who manned the anchor position. "It's good everybody in the community can come together and have fun for a good cause."

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