LAHAINA - There is a youthful demeanor in the face of Kahana Canoe Club President John Kuia that belies his 71 years of age. The lifetime Lahaina resident is a jovial sort for the most part, but when the topic of the cultural club he leads comes up, his eyes narrow, the lightness fades and the seriousness of perpetuating the spirit of the canoe springs forth.
"We've got a lot of old guys coming out to paddle, so we're doing well in the senior races," Kuia said. "But I'm also impressed by the younger group of the club - they have truly grown to understand the meaning of togetherness and the importance of the spirit of the canoe. One guy brings his 103-year-old mom down to the practices, so she can take in the beauty of the beach and enjoy the setting."
Kuia, who is joined on the board of directors by Vice President Walter Delos Reyes, Treasurer Rebecca Schwartz and Secretary Cynthia Conrad, added that it has been an emotional year for Kahana with the loss of several of its longtime members.
Kahana Canoe Club’s Golden Masters (60 and over) paddlers include (from left): Donna Chisolm, Joel Dennis, Mike Chisolm, Diane Delos Reyes, Jim Kohler, Jane Kohler, Kathleen Giambalvo, Sherry Foster, Walter Delos Reyes, Annie Burns, Dorothy Flores, Charlie Nakagawa and Steven Sandi. Pat Kelly, John Kuia, Sam and Gilda Cavallero, Ulu Jaramillo, Teddy Waller and Roger Ross are not pictured. PHOTO BY VIVIAN DELOS REYES.
"We've gone through some emotional growth with the passing of these guys. But all of us together understand about being a part of the club and being pono," he said.
"It's just been a great movement forward for all of us," he added. "A nice blending of the old and the new - the younger people bringing in a nice spirit and energy in learning about the procedures like rigging the canoes, and the older ones - like Bobo Naleieha, Charlie Nakagawa, Diane and Walter Delos Reyes, Jane and Jim Kohler, Joel Dennis, Pat Kelly and Sherry Foster - bringing in the knowledge and spirit of the club.
"We try to paddle all year round with recreational activities and taking people from all over the world out in the canoes."
Kahana has also established a scholarship program over the last ten years that benefits Lahainaluna High School graduates. The scholarships and operating costs of the club are paid for through fundraisers, including KCC's annual smoked meat sale at the Maui County Fair.
The club put on the Naleieha Regatta last week to honor the family that helped found the organization back in the '70s, and members are now preparing for the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association Championship Regatta this Saturday, July 20, sponsored by Na Kai Ewalu Canoe Club at Kahului Harbor.
"We've got the Mixed Novice B, Junior Women, Sophomore Men, Mixed 65, and Men 65 crews up there fighting for the top spots and a trip to Kauai for the HCRA State Championships in early August," noted Kuia.
"All together, we'll enter about 24 (of 42 total) races at the regatta with our active membership of 150. We'll also enter two crews in the Na Pali Challenge at the state races, and also participate in the long distance season after that. We'll be the umbrella organization for the Maui Nui Tri-Isle Race between Maui-Molokai-Lanai, which takes place after the Molokai Hoe Channel Race."
He explained that the club's coaching staff of Kai Keahi, Cameron Jacome, Colin Delos Reyes and Mike "Scarey Boy" Garvin are tasked with creating their own program for the various divisions on race day.
"We don't interfere with what each coach is doing with their group, and we like to let each of them organize their own group. I thank all the coaches, board members and family supporters for all they do for the club. That is the number one thing - the club," Kuia concluded.