Hawaiian claims eighth state canoe crown in nine years

08.03.2009 0

HILO — Close to sunset, while the last race of the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association championship at Hilo Bay was being run Saturday, Hawaiian Canoe Club keiki coach Paul Luuwai already knew that his club had sewn up a state title.

”It’s euphoria right now,” Luuwai said of winning the AAAA Division championship, for the largest clubs, with 355 points — 60 more than runner-up Kai Opua. ”It feels so good to have accomplished this. The years of dedication, the months of planning and organizing and planning some more, the anticipation of it all. It’s so great to be able to bring this back to Maui, especially after such a bittersweet loss last year.”

In 2008, Hawaiian placed second in the state regatta, three points behind Lanikai, ending a streak of seven consecutive titles.

This year, Hawaiian had 21 top-seeded crews — which means the first pick of a lane — in the 37 races. The winners of the last 25 county titles, however, found that the conditions were not what they expected.

”The lanes were very deceiving today,” Luuwai said. ”You fight all year to come in top seed, but today the currents were deceptive in the way lanes are running.”

Hawaiian faced some other challenges, too, including a disqualification for a false start in the junior men’s division. Additionally, some of the HCC paddlers were only able to find flights that brought them to Hilo with little time to prepare before a race, and often had to hurry off upon completing an event to catch a flight back home.

”Our club was strong enough to overcome those challenges like lanes and travel” said HCC president Diane Ho. ”But it’s really not about the challenges, we all face challenges. Today was about our club coming together. Each individual, every single paddler contributed to this championship — the paddlers, coaches, boat holders, and the aunties that fed us — everyone made this happen. It wasn’t one person, one race. It was the whole team and that’s really special to us. It feels good to come into Hilo and to win, especially the way we won today, which was a total club effort.”

Hawaiian had four first-place crews — in boys 12 (Mogul Luuwai, Caleb Kaaukai, Judah Garrison, Ariel Elftman-Hanson, Pita Tuliau and Bradley Alo), girls 14 (Ali Hoeck, Justus Tuliau, Kara Frampton, Ui Ahuna, Angelique Fontaine and Casey Rech), girls 15 (Julice Valencia, Ali Hoeck, Diondra Gomes, Ui Ahuna, Lilinoe Bal and Kiana Siliado) and women’s novice B (Tiare Ferguson, Michelle Laberge, Kristy Bartunek, April Ingle, Heaven Tancayo and Jennifer Stites).

”We didn’t have all-star attitudes this year,” Luuwai said. ”We had a lot of return kids that have chosen to stay in Hawaiian’s family and that made such a big difference. There were a lot of alumni kids out there. I’m so proud of them. It is such an honor to play this game, the sport of our ancestors. Awesome and euphoric.”

Starr Begley is at sbegley@mauinews.com

No comments

Leave a reply

maui web design by ≈ liquid media