LAHAINA - His dream is still alive. With the running of the Dougie Tihada Memorial Regatta last Saturday at Hanakao'o Beach Park (Canoe Beach), the fondest hopes of Dougie Tihada, one of the founders of Napili Canoe Club here on the West Side, continue to flourish. The cultural sport he loved is paid forward through the dedication of the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association and his family.
Dougie's son, Joey, stands at the forefront of this effort as the head coach of NCC, as well as the mentor for the sport in the Maui Interscholastic League and at Lahainaluna High School.
From his menehune days eating sand along Canoe Beach to the present day as a family man and year-round coach of paddling and football at Lahainaluna, Coach Joey's days - and evenings - outside of his work have been spent down at the beach or on the football field.
Napili Canoe Club keiki paddlers gather after practice last week in preparation for the Dougie Tihada Memorial Regatta at Hanakao‘o Beach Park. PHOTO BY WALTER CHIHARA.
He works alongside another NCC veteran, club President Jeanne Gonzales, who heads up the leadership of the organization with Vice President Theresa Marzan, Secretary Alicia Riley and Treasurer Carol Elterman, another longtime contributor to paddling on the West Side.
The coaching staff includes Rayleen Kama leading the keiki paddlers, along with Eugene Tihada (Dougie's brother), Manny Portabes, Al Nip and Michelei Tancayo; and Daniel Tancayo, Wendy Gerry, Kona Maielua and Junior Nakoa assisting Coach Joey with the adult crews.
"We've got about 160 active members this year, and we enter about 32 of the 42 regatta races. We actually have more adult paddlers than kids this year, as this was our focus for this season," Coach Joey explained last week from the NCC hale at Canoe Beach.
"We're halfway through the regatta season of seven events, and the state championships are scheduled for early August on Kauai."
Thus far, NCC is in a battle for fourth place in the MCHCA standings with Wailea Canoe Club, with three regattas remaining on the schedule.
The leading crews in the qualifying effort for states include the 12 Boys, 12 Girls, 12 Mixed, 14 Girls and 16 Girls.
"Everything is really going well for us this year, and all the crews are showing improvement as the season goes on. This is good for the future," said Coach Joey.
"We really want to express our thanks to Paradise Grill for their sponsorship of the club; and, of course, we thank the parents and spouses of the coaches for helping us to another overall good season."