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"You go girl" - Na Wahine O Ke Kai

by Amber Vega, staff writer

On Sept. 28, at 7:30 a.m., women from around the world gathered at Hale O Lono Harbor on 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 free hotel stays, air flights, rental cars, and more. The Laser Eye Center offered LASIK corrective eye surgery to anyone who correctly guessed the winning finish time. Live coverage of the event was provided by radio station Hawaiian 105 KINE, which kept the public 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 ranges from ages 18 to 35. The Junior Masters division is ages 35 to 45. And the Senior Masters division ranges from ages 45 and up.

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 this activity 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.



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