On Sept. 28, at 7:30
a.m., women from around the world gathered at Hale O Lono Harbor
the southwest end of the island of Moloka‘i for one reason
and one reason only: to paddle the 41-mile outrigger long- distance
canoe race across one of the most difficult channels in the world,
the Ka‘iwi (Moloka‘i) channel.
Now obviously these aren’t your average “Suzie homemaker” kind
of women we are dealing with here. For the pure fun of it all
these women embarked across a rough, unpredictable ocean, endured
both mental and physical strain, and had an expected completion
time of only six hours. Welcome to the new generation of Amazon
women, ladies and gentlemen. It’s about time!
The Hawai‘i Modular Space Na Wahine O Ke Kai Women’s
Outrigger Canoe Championship celebrated it’s 25th annual
Moloka‘i channel race for women on yet another beautiful
day in paradise. Who would have thought that an ancient Hawaiian
pasttime would become the basis for one of the most challenging
open water sports event in the world today?
The day was packed with excitement and fun, as three-time defending
champions Kai Opua Open Team, from Kona, had high hopes of
claiming yet another victory. For entertainment value, Tahitian-label
Hinano Beer set up a beer garden at the event and gave away
hotel stays, air flights, rental cars, and more. The Laser
Eye Center offered LASIK corrective eye surgery to anyone who
guessed the winning finish time. Live coverage of the event
was provided by radio station Hawaiian 105 KINE, which kept
up to date on statistics and aired interviews with the paddlers.
Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with the basic fundamentals
of a canoe race there are a total of five divisions: The Koa
division paddles a solid Koa wood canoe, while the Non-Koa
division paddles canoes made out of fiberglass. The Open division
from ages 18 to 35. The Junior Masters division is ages 35
to 45. And the Senior Masters division ranges from ages 45
Each canoe sits six paddlers at a time to compete in the race.
Throughout the course of the race paddlers are rotated by exiting
the canoe on the starboard (right) side while the boarding
paddler enters the canoe from the port side (left). All of
is done while the canoe is still in motion.
More than 60 teams from Australia, Canada, Hawai‘i, New
Zealand, mainland United States, and Tahiti made for a spectacular
display of both beauty and strength. The Moolaba crew from Australia
took first place winning the Silver anniversary Hawai‘i
Modular Space Na Wahine O Ke Kai trophy and overthrowing reigning
champions Kai Opua from Kona.
Towards the end of the day the last few crews to arrive were
both exhausted and exhilarated as they glided through the finish
line. A resounding “you go girl” echoed through the
air. At this point, there was no longer a need for numbers or
placings. They had just completed a 41-mile canoe race across
one of the world’s most challenging channels. Finishing
was good enough.