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Joey Tihada is the Lahaina News’ ‘Sportsman of the Year’

By Staff | Jan 20, 2011


There is a deep reverence among Native American peoples — and particularly the Iroquois Nation — for their cultural expression in the sport of lacrosse.

The wooden lacrosse stick is considered by Native Americans as a “… gift from Mother Earth, that a living thing died to make it, and that its spirit has been transformed to the Iroquois player, who honors the tree’s sacrifice as the energy has been transferred to the player…”

An interesting parallel thus arises in the similar pathways of the wooden lacrosse stick of Native Americans and the koa canoe of Native Hawaiian culture.

The highly revered canoes created from the koa trees are considered a gift from the Creator to propagate the Hawaiian spirit along the same lines as the hula, the language and the music of Native Hawaiians.

Throughout the final decades of the 20th century and into the new millennium, the culture of the canoe within the sport of paddling has exploded across the State of Hawaii and around the world. From the keiki age groups on up through the “golden” seniors, canoe paddling has become an endearing legacy to propagate the essence of the Hawaiian culture.

Here in Hawaii, the club paddling season covers the summer months and culminates with the Molokai Hoe channel races for men and women in the fall. In the winter months, high school teams take to the water for the interscholastic season, and the adults compete in the one-man canoe and kayak events that also finish with a Molokai to Oahu event.

Across all age and racial lines, canoe paddling thus continues to expand and enrich the manifestation of the Hawaiian spirit.

Throughout his life, Lahaina’s Joey Tihada has been a part of this movement. His father, Dougie Tihada, was a leading proponent of canoe paddling here on the West Side during the initial stages of the development of the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association in the mid-1970s. The elder Tihada was among the founding fathers of Napili Canoe Club until his untimely passing in 1983.

Young Joey Tihada was raised on the shoreline fronting “Sandbox” beach that later became Canoe Beach and the center for three West Side clubs. It was a natural progression for him to take the steering paddle from his dad to guide the canoe culture into the modern era.

Beginning with the establishment of the Na Pio youth paddling events that evolved into the sanctioning of canoe racing as an official high school sport in 2002, and continuing his involvement as the coach of Napili Canoe Club and the Lahainaluna High School team throughout the crossing into the new millennium, Joey has been the steersman of the continuing course to promote canoe paddling, which has enriched all who participate with the essence of Hawaiian culture.

For these leadership and mentoring efforts within the Lahaina community, for making the commitment to dedicate his life to giving back to the youth of the West Side (he is also a veteran coach of the highly regarded Luna football staff), we take great pleasure in honoring Coach Joey as the Lahaina News’ “Sportsman of the Year.”

Moreover, we are privileged to recognize the entire Tihada family as pillars of the Lahaina community and the unique culture we live in. Joey’s wife, Sheri, is always there as the mom to their three young sons and matron of the canoe clubs, while brother Nori, cousin Mike and uncle Eugene help staff the coaching ranks.

Uncle Lanny, honored two years ago as the recipient of this same award, continues as the primary booster of Lahainaluna football.

As the honoree, Joey will receive a custom made plaque from Maui Marking Device and Wendall DeVera, as well as gift certificates to Maui’s TS Restaurants, including Kimo’s, Leilani’s on the Beach, Hula Grill and Duke’s Beach House at Honua Kai.

“We are honored to be a part of recognizing the efforts of people like Joey Tihada for the betterment of the Lahaina community,” said TS Restaurants Vice President Dickie Moon.

Mahalo and congratulations, Joey!