Moku o Hawaii: Moku o Hawaii makes Hilo debut
One minute the public-address announcer was admiring the view as the sun shined on the Hamakua Coast.
The next minute paddlers, coaches and officials were running for cover as the wind whipped up and rain fell.
The Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association regatta season made its debut at Hilo Bay, but the change in scenery did little to alter the landscape at the top.
Seven-time champion Kai Opua was the top point-getter in A Division for the fourth straight regatta, outdistancing Keauhou and Puna.
Far down on the south end of the beach, Paddlers of Laka celebrated victories in boys 14 and women’s novice B.
“We’ve been killing it in B Division,” club president Doug Bumatay said. “This year, we have about the same amount (of paddlers) as last year, but this year we have more that are actively coming out to practice.
“One of the reasons we’re stronger in the youth crews is they’re more consistent in coming to practice.”
A prime example is his boys 14 canoe — Kawai Anderson, Makoa Andres, Anthony Benevides Jr., Solan Martinez-Oda, Thomas Pakani and Isaac Santos — which won for the third time in four tries.
Bumatay credited the crew for not only showing up, but also working hard and recruiting depth. “We know how the race is going to feel and what it’s going to be like,” said Santos, a steersman. “Mainly because we all push together.”
As far as the push to the state regatta is concerned, each regatta is cumulative and carries equal weight, including the island championships.
However, this year Moku O Hawaii will only have two lanes at states. “Since we don’t have third place going into states, we just have to try all the harder for first or second,” Santos said.
The win for women’s novice B — beginners Lani Corpuz, T Kauhi, Kit Krisman, Susan Lee, Loki Vares, Liann Young — was the crew’s first of the season.
“First three races were eye-openers for them,” Bumatay said. “Last week they could have took it, but we made out mistakes.
“They’re on the ball. A very tight bunch and that helps with learning.”
Kailana Canoe Club was the regatta host, and Aunty Maile Mauhili’s club remains just the way she wants it: small and geared toward youth.
“It’s all about competition and respecting each other,” she said. “We teach paddling and the Hawaiian language.
“My No. 1 thing is taking care of 12-18s. The little ones you have no problems. The adults. Oh my.”
Kailana’s best finishes on the day were third place by boys 12 and boys 13.
The following crews all won their races to remain undefeated:
Keaukaha: Boys 12, boys 16, girls 18
Keauhou: Girls 13, men’s masters (40)
Puna: Senior women’s masters (50), mixed men and women
Kai Ehitu: Girls 12
Kawaihae: Mixed 12