LAHAINA - The cultural sport of Hawaiian canoe paddling as an officially sanctioned activity at Lahainaluna High School started out with a bang in 2001, as the Lunas stroked their way to a state championship paced by the gold medal effort of its mixed crew.
Since that breakthrough year, Lahainaluna - still guided by the steady leadership of Joey Tihada, who has been at the helm of the youth paddling programs here on the West Side with Lahainaluna and Napili Canoe Club for some 26 years, as well as the running backs coach for the LHS football team throughout those years - has settled into a slot in the middle of the pack of the Maui Interscholastic League standings.
The 2013-14 season saw the Luna program finish in sixth place in both the girls and boys varsity standings, and the mixed crew taking fifth place. The junior varsity entries completed the season in similar spots. Gentleman Joey added that the girls varsity crew would probably have finished higher in the standings but suffered some bad breaks, including flipping in the championship final.
The paddling teams finished in the middle of the pack in the Maui Interscholastic League standings. PHOTO BY ART FILLAZAR.
Coach Joey was assisted this year by veterans Manny Portables, Courtney Asato and Brittany Summers, with added support coming from the parent corps of the team.
"Our thanks goes out to all the parents for their support of the team," said Tihada. "Thanks also to Napili Canoe Club for the use of their equipment, including the canoes and paddles."
The varsity girls crew included Jazzylyn Bonds, Kawena Murray, Kaliko Pasco Dusenberry, Kalei Steele, Andilyn Alavazo, Kalena Au Shim and Kaua Williams; while the boys varsity lineup was made up of Rayjay English, Jayvan Paleka, JT Kaleikini Valmoja, Jared Purdy, Jona Ragsdale, Teva Medeiros, Nicholas Lee, Leland Alavazo and Aaron Naea.
The Luna JV girls crew was made up of Ola Medeiros, Eva Bryan, Lena Nolan Criste, Hoku Delatori, Ryah Kaniho, Kelsey Badua and Lani Kai; while the boys lineup included Kekane Palos, Riley Smart and Justice Tihada.
The MIL paddling season is short and sweet, with practice starting at the end of November, official races running before the Christmas break in December and finishing up with the championship races taking place on Jan. 25.
"We were supposed to host the final regatta at Canoe Beach in Lahaina, but due to the weather and surf conditions, we moved it to Kihei - but the waves came up over there, too, so we finally settled in at Kahului Harbor for the event," Tihada explained. "So, all in all, it has been a good season. I think the kids had fun with the program. Plus, the future looks good, especially for the girls. We do need to get out and do some recruiting, especially for the boys."