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Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association suspends season over coronavirus concerns

                                Outrigger canoes from Waikiki Beach Boys Canoe Club (foreground) and Kamehameha Canoe Club remained on shore at the Ala Wai Canal Friday.
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Outrigger canoes from Waikiki Beach Boys Canoe Club (foreground) and Kamehameha Canoe Club remained on shore at the Ala Wai Canal Friday.

The Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association has suspended its 2020 preseason races and summer regatta season because of mandated government orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Representatives of canoe clubs say they understand the decision to keep everyone safe in uncertain times.

“It’s very unfortunate. Obviously we understand given all that’s happening right now. It’s kind of crazy to say the least,” said Brad Wong, president of Kailua Canoe Club, which has more than 400 youth and adult members.

In a letter posted on OHCRA’s Facebook page late Thursday, President Lapule Schultz said the OHCRA executive board took the drastic step to cancel the season “in response to the countless unknown variables and the known economic hardships that we face as a community.”

“We hope that this decision to suspend these events provides some relief to the weight that you feel and will allow you to focus on your community at a time when they need you most,” he said.

Established in 1979, OHCRA is the largest canoe racing association in the state, comprising more than 3,000 paddlers from 20 clubs, according to its website.

Preseason races are normally held from mid-March to May, with the regatta season starting in June and running through a series of events at different sites around the island, leading up to the state championships in early August.

Schultz said the executive board has yet to decide whether the long-distance season, which follows the regatta season, will be held. Board members are expected to address the matter in early June.

OHCRA is scheduled to hold its monthly meeting Monday, when the board is slated to discuss the suspension with representatives from the association’s canoe clubs.

Generally, practice for the regatta season begins in the spring. With the season canceled, coaches are encouraging paddlers to find other ways to stay physically active, either by using one-man canoes or through running, yoga and bodyweight exercises.

OHCRA reminded paddlers to adhere to mandated orders of social distancing to ensure the health and safety of the community.

Marlene “Ryannette” Kaho­onei, vice president of the Makaha Canoe Club, said though paddlers are saddened by the suspension of the regatta season, they would rather be safe. “I’m sure our members, (including) the kids, all know and understand that it’s for their safety,” she said.

Makaha Canoe Club comprises more than 55 members from ages 8 to 70.

Scotty Reis-Moniz, president of Waimanalo Canoe Club, which has about 150 members, said board members had already made a decision in early March to suspend practices before OHCRA announced its decision. “Our No. 1 concern is always safety,” he said.

Oahu’s other major canoe racing association, Hui Wa‘a, told its 19 member clubs on March 17 that preseason races through April 30 had been canceled and that the situation going forward would be reassessed later down the line.

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