The tradition continues at Hanakao‘o Beach Park
“I so admire the Lahaina community for their support of youth athletics here, not only for paddling, but for all sports – football, wrestling, basketball. It represents the ‘mana’ of all the people,” said Jeanne Gonzales, who has served as Napili Canoe Club president for 12 years running, in expressing her gratitude to the West Side in paying forward the importance of the culture of the Hawaiian canoe.
That spirit is manifested in celebrations such as the annual Dougie Tihada Memorial Regatta that took place three weeks ago at Hanakao’o Beach Park (Canoe Beach). This event honors the memory of the late Dougie Tihada, one of the founding fathers of the club some 40 years ago.
This year’s event had added significance with the recent passing of Aimoku Pali, also one of the founders of NCC.
And, in that same light, at all inshore regatta races at Canoe Beach, the memory of William “Billy” Gonzales enters our hearts and minds. Billy perished six-and-a-half years ago in a horrific boating accident as he was setting lanes for a canoe regatta in Lahaina, as he had done for decades for both MCHCA and MIL events.
It is a sentimental journey that embodies the spirit that Billy’s wife, Jeanne, and family serve to propagate – indeed malama – for future generations and particularly for the keiki of our community.
It is a memory that will forever remind us of those quiet, peaceful times throughout the years when we would meet Billy trudging up the beach, mask and snorkel atop his head, dragging ropes and buoys up to the hale. And always with that grin on his face that resembled someone who had just eaten something really nasty – that was Billy Gonzales.
But who would carry on the load that he so consistently carried? Most people had no idea who set the lane buoy markers for the races; and now, who would have the energy to freedive 20-30 feet to set the six lane markers for the regattas?
Billy and Jeanne’s son, Hoku, is the man. After all, Hoku probably spent more of his childhood down at Canoe Beach than at home.
In a comical twist, Billy was a member of Kahana Canoe Club while Jeanne and Hoku paddled for neighborhood rival Napili. Can you imagine the verbal battles that took place at the Gonzales dinner table up Lahainaluna Road?
So nowadays, we’ll meet up with Hoku down at Canoe Beach as he trudges up the shoreline after setting lanes as his dad had done for so many years. It’s a slimmer version, but that sly grin is there just the same. The tradition continues – malama pono.