Monday, November 30, 2015         

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Paddling for Manu O Ke Kai a way of life for Sanborn family


Randy Sanborn was with Manu O Ke Kai when the canoe club was formed in 1984, and he's still going strong at age 74.

Sanborn is the head coach for Manu O Ke Kai, and he also paddles in a division with others more than a decade younger: mixed 60.

"It's for the kids and for my health," Sanborn said. "Not staying at home watching TV, being a couch potato; and doing something to keep you going."

Manu O Ke Kai, which trains at Haleiwa Beach Park, will compete in the AAA division at the Na ‘Ohana O Na Hui Wa‘a Championship today at Keehi Lagoon.

The championship will wrap up Hui Wa‘a's nine-regatta season. The Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association State Championship is Aug. 6 on Maui.

Manu O Ke Kai won the AAA division (25-39 crews) title June 26 at Keehi Lagoon. It was the club's second division title in history. Na Keiki O Ka Moi claimed five AAA titles during the season, including the last three, and Kaneohe won two.

Sanborn, who lives in Wahiawa, got into canoe paddling while at a football field.

"A group of us had kids playing football for Leilehua (in the early 1980s). We'd watch practice, and one of the parents mentioned canoe paddling and there are guys our age paddling," said Sanborn, who had all three sons play for Leilehua. "We made a crew and got involved."

Back then, the club was known as Haleiwa Surf and Canoe Club; then the name changed to Kai Poha. In 1984, Kai Poha moved its training site to Keehi Lagoon, and the paddlers who stayed formed Manu O Ke Kai.

Sanborn said Manu O Ke Kai had 65 members when it started. Now it has 180.

Since Manu O Ke Kai was formed, Sanborn has rented a bus to get the club's youth paddlers to regatta sites. It is 28 miles from Haleiwa Beach Park to Keehi Lagoon, the site of five regattas.

"The reason for the bus is the kids don't have a way down to the races. The parents, it's too early in the morning to come down," Sanborn said.

Sanborn said about 50 youth paddlers ride the bus, which costs $216 to $263 to rent per regatta. A Manu O Ke Kai assistant coach accompanies them.

The bus picks up the kids at Haleiwa Beach Park at 6 a.m., then makes another pickup in Wahiawa at 6:30. The kids get to the regatta site by about 7:30.

Hui Wa‘a's weekend regattas start at 8 a.m. and the kids start things off.

Having all the youth paddlers show up at the same time also makes it easier logistically to put crews together, Manu O Ke Kai club representative Faith Craycroft said.

"The main thing for the bus is the kids race first," she said. "We also have to submit crews before a certain time. We need to make sure all the kids are there or else we have to make changes. There's a penalty if things aren't done at a certain time."

Craycroft added the bus takes the youth paddlers home at about 2:30 p.m., which is about 3 hours before the 39-event regattas are completed.

Registration fees for Manu O Ke Kai paddlers don't cover the cost of renting a bus every weekend, so the club holds fundraisers. It also received a donation from Hawaiian Bath and Body, which helped with the costs and allowed the club to purchase paddles and jerseys.

Sanborn has to drive twice to regatta sites.

The day before a regatta, Sanborn and his son, Kekoa, haul two canoes to the site by trailer.

The day of a regatta, Sanborn leaves his home at 5 a.m., and sets up the club's tent and rigs the canoes shortly after he arrives.

Sanborn's wife, Aloha, and son, Moku, also have been with Manu O Ke Kai since 1984.

Back then, Moku was a defensive back on a Leilehua team that won the Prep Bowl. He and a group of Mules teammates also paddled on Manu O Ke Kai's boys 16 crew.

Moku currently paddles on Manu O Ke Kai's men senior and men 40 crews.

"It's one of those sports where the whole family can get involved," he said. "You can have grandparents, grandkids participating at the same time. I want my kids to paddle, too, but they outgrew it."

At today's championship, Aloha will be presented an award for her service to Hui Wa‘a. Aloha, 72, is a former paddler and club representative for Manu O Ke Kai. She also has served as Hui Wa‘a vice president and secretary, and on various committees.


The top three Hui Wa‘a crews in each of the 39 events qualify for the HCRA State Championship on Aug. 6 on Maui. … The placings are based on finishes from seven of the nine regattas, including today's. … Manu O Ke Kai is expected to qualify at least seven crews for the state championship, Craycroft said. … There are four undefeated crews heading into today's Na ‘Ohana O Na Hui Wa‘a championship. They are Lokahi's men 50, Waikiki Beach Boys' men novice A and freshman women, and Kamehameha's girls 16.

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