The king’s children have finally returned to rule their canoe paddling kingdom.
Na Keiki O Ka Moi — roughly translated as the children of the king — claimed their first Na Ohana O Na Hui Wa’a outrigger canoe paddling title in 25 years yesterday in the organization’s championship regatta at Keehi Lagoon.
Ka Moi ended Kaneohe Canoe Club’s run of seven consecutive titles by amassing 79 points and winning eight races en route to the overall and AAA Division (25-39 crews entered) crowns. Manu O Ke Kai put up a good fight, finishing with 53 points on six race wins, and Koa Kai rounded out the large-club division with 33 points.
The win carried added importance for Ka Moi coach Lisa Ka’aekuahiwi, whose father, Rona, started the club 34 years ago and was at the helm when the club last won the coveted championship.
"If you would have told me this (was going to be the result) at the beginning of the year, I would have never believed it," said Ka’aekuahiwi, who was named Hui Wa’a coach of the year, and also accepted honors for club of the year on behalf of her squad. "It’s the ultimate feeling. As soon as we did our club yell with so many of our members, I had that feeling.
"Everybody was like, ‘This is what your dad would want. He’d be proud of you.’ I’m honoring him and all that he taught us."
One of Ka Moi’s more emphatic victories came in the women’s 40 race, as the veteran crew was able to hold off and eventually pull away from Kaneohe in the mile-long event. The crew, which included Ka’aekuahiwi captaining the boat as steersman, celebrated the victory by chowing down on Snickers bars and doing a group cheer under the club’s tent.
"We’ve been together for a long time. We paddle from the heart," said victorious crewmember Tamara Desoto as she savored the victory with teammate Dee Kila after the crew received their gold medals. "It’s a family affair. We work hard, train hard and party hard."
The winning crew also included: Mapu Auwae, Kris Lindquist and Deonne Carden.
Nearly 1,500 paddlers ranging in age from 12 and under to 60 and above represented Hui Wa’a’s 18 member clubs in 39 races spanning a quarter mile to 1.5 miles. The top two crews in each race, according to the seasonlong cumulative point totals, earned berths in the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association’s State Championship Regatta on Aug. 7, also at Keehi Lagoon.
Despite seeing its championship run come to an end, Kaneohe did not come up empty-handed. The Windward-side club claimed the AA Division (13-24 crews entered) with 52 points to edge the Waikiki Beach Boys (50 points) and finish in third place overall.
Kaneohe was hindered all year by a lack of paddlers, including seeing a drop in its youth paddlers — usually a strong source for points — by more than 40 individuals.
"We ran short with some of the kids crews, but we can’t do anything; we have what we have," said Kaneohe coach Clint Anderson. "We’ve all got to gear up for the state race now. I congratulate Ka Moi on an awesome job in their comeback season. And the Beach Boys, they’re a machine! They (practically) only get first and second place (finishes)."
Ka Mamalahoe continued its seasonlong dominance of the A Division (6-12 crews entered) with 24 points, and bested Kalihi-Kai (18 points), North Shore (13 points) and Kumulokahi-Elks (12 points).
Jennifer Oka of the Kai Poha Canoe Club earned Hui Wa’a’s annual award for club representative of the year.
The Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association will hold its championship today at Keehi Lagoon.