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Wa‘a Kiakahi perpetuates the islands’ sailing canoe legacy

By Staff | Jun 1, 2017

Wa‘a Kiakahi features traditional ceremonies, sailing canoe rides and educational talks about celestial navigation and water skills.

KAANAPALI – The 13th annual Wa’a Kiakahi will be held on Kaanapali’s shores from June 2-4, welcoming ten six-member crews from all islands to share with the public the history and proficiency of traditional Hawaiian sailing canoes.

Created by the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association (HCSA), the three-day event features traditional ceremonies, sailing canoe rides and educational talks about celestial navigation and water skills.

HCSA conducts its races in the same mode as ancient Hawaiians. Sailors do not make crew changes, and they travel every channel connecting the Hawaiian Islands.

Kaanapali Beach Resort Association is the title sponsor of the event, and the public is invited to interact with the canoes and sailors on Kaanapali Beach.

On Friday, June 2, rigging of the canoes at Kahului Harbor canoe clubs starts at 8:30 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., the race starts from Kahului. Ten crews will race 27 miles to Kaanapali. The crews are expected to arrive at Kaanapali Beach around 3 p.m., where a traditional Hawaiian welcome ceremony will be held.

On Saturday, June 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., free sailing canoe rides for all ages, “talk story” opportunities with race team members, and demonstrations between Kaanapali Beach Hotel and Sheraton Maui will be offered. There is no age requirement to go out, and life jackets will be provided for non-swimmers.

On Sunday, June 4, at 8 a.m., a Race Ceremony is slated. The race will start from Kaanapali Beach between 8:45 and 9 a.m. There will be a sailing canoe send-off and traditional Hawaiian farewell ceremony for the Mel Paoa Pailolo Race. Ten six-man crews will race 27 miles from Kaanapali to Molokai.

“Being able to share the tradition of sailing canoes with the public is something all the crews look forward to,” said Ray Glauser of Team Kaanapali Beach Hotel.

“We like to share the sport that we are passionate about, as it is truly unique. If we can give someone a taste of what it’s like to be in a sailing canoe, that is an honor for us.”

The race from Kahului to Kaanapali is a challenging one. The direction of sail is constantly changing as the canoes round the North Shore, sailing past Kahakuloa and Kapalua. Upon leaving Kahului Harbor, the canoes must turn slightly upwind, paddling hard to pass Waihee. As they pass Kahakuloa, the going usually gets easier as they start heading more downwind. If the tradewinds are brisk, the turn of sail direction (jibe) usually done near Kapalua can be tricky.

On Sunday, the race to Molokai is not as technically challenging, but it is always dependent on the wind and weather. Usually the canoes head straight out between Lanai and Molokai before turning in toward Molokai later in the race.

The participating teams for 2017 are: Olukai, Kauai; Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Maui; Maui Jim, Kauai; Aston Whaler, Oahu; One Kai, Oahu; Bioastin, Hawaii; Hui Nalu Canoe Club, Oahu; Molokai Canoe Club, Molokai; and Kahiau, Oahu.

HCSA is excited to welcome back Ikaika Kinkaid sailing “Kahiau.” He grew up with the sport, sailing with his dad and uncle, and he now rejoins the fleet after living on the Mainland for the last eight years.

Ocean Paddler TV often films the event, which is usually aired later in the summer.

For more information, visit https://hsca.info/.