The phrase selected to grace the cover of yesterday’s Na ‘Ohana O Na Hui Wa’a outrigger canoe paddling organization’s Maili Beach Regatta race program was simple yet fitting: "E kamau io i ka hoe a pae aku."
When translated, the saying means "keep paddling until your destination is reached."
Na Keiki O Ka Moi canoe club reached an important destination indeed, accomplishing its season-long goal of winning its own regatta as the host club racked up 74 points to claim the overall and AAA Division (25-39 crews entered) titles in the waters fronting Maili Beach Park. Manu O Ke Kai finished second overall with 59 points, and was the closest competition to Na Keiki all day.
The victory was a special one for Na Keiki coach Lisa Ka’aekuahiwi, who has helped steer her club back to prominence after her father, the late Rona Ka’aekuahiwi, did so as the club’s founder and coach 34 years ago.
"I feel relieved because from the beginning of the year, we look forward to this race," said Ka’aekuahiwi. "It’s so special, I’m almost speechless. Every time we paddle here, it’s for my dad. That’s why it means so much to me."
Na Keiki won two of the first three Hui Wa’a events of the season, and after picking up a third victory two weeks ago at Keehi Lagoon, the club used last week’s bye to tinker with some crew alignments and the moves paid dividends in yesterday’s victory which saw the club win seven races overall.
"Sometimes even with momentum, you have to crack the whip even harder because we’re getting close to the end (of the regular season) and people start to relax," said Ka’aekuahiwi about dealing with the bye week and the upcoming exhibition race at Waikiki Beach on Sunday. "I try to make it clear: it’s not about you, it’s about the betterment of the club. Of course you want to win, but you don’t win at all costs."
The race course was set up perpendicular to shore, making it possible for crews to ride ocean bumps straight into the finish line. The choppy surf and variable wind tested paddlers’ conditioning as races took significantly longer to complete then at the calmer Keehi Lagoon course layout.
"We’ve been doing some different cross-training for conditioning," said Moku Sanborn, steersman for Manu O Ke Kai’s victorious men’s senior and 40 crews. The paddlers have engaged in training similar to that performed by mixed martial arts fighters, including light weightlifting at a fast pace to enhance their conditioning over longer periods of time.
"(Today’s wins) were really important. We wanted to stay ahead in the (cumulative) points and keep momentum on our side," Sanborn said.
The Waikiki Beach Boys won seven races to secure top honors in the AA Division (13-24 crews entered) with 50 points. Kaneohe (47 points) led the division throughout the day until Waikiki made its run in the afternoon, and took over due in large part to the Beach Boys women claiming the novice A, freshmen, sophomore and senior events.
Ka Mamalahoe claimed the A Division (6-12 crews entered) with 21 points, and held off North Shore (15 points) and Kumulokahi-Elks (13 points).
Hui Wa’a will hold its annual Waikiki Beach Regatta on Sunday, and the results will not count toward the organization’s cumulative points tally. The Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, which had a bye this week, will race Sunday at Keehi Lagoon for its annual John D. Kaupiko Regatta.