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Napili Canoe Club enjoys surge of young paddlers

By Staff | Jun 17, 2010

Napili Canoe Club’s keiki paddlers are off to an impressive start.

LAHAINA — Here on the West Side, the phrase “The tradition continues” is heard often and taken seriously, particularly at Napili Canoe Club.

Led by a core veteran leadership group, NCC begins the 2010 Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association (MCHCA) season still aglow from its gold medal finish at last year’s state regatta in the “A” Division (eight crews or less), and buoyed by tradition established some 34 years ago at Hanakao‘o Beach Park.

Aimoku Pali was the founding father of the organization in 1976, and among that original group of leaders was the late Dougie Tihada.

Napili Canoe Club annually honors the memory of Dougie Tihada at its host regatta, and that event took place last Saturday at the Lahaina shores where it all began.

Tihada’s son, Joey, is now the head coach of NCC and has been coaching there for 23 years. He is joined in the leadership of the club by longtime members Jeannie Gonzalez, Teresa Marzan, Carol Elterman, Tammy Djoa, Mike Tihada, Nori Tihada and Shona Lohman.

“We’ve been getting great help from so many people over the last few years, and we’ve also been getting more and more support from the parents,” explained Coach Joey last week.    

“There has been a significant rise in the number of kids we have — 130 this year — and we have 202 officially registered to paddle.”

Along with last season’s state championship, Napili finished fifth in the final MCHCA standings for 2009. The club has come out of the gates with top five results in the first two regattas of the year.

“The keiki crews are doing really well — close to the top in the early parts of the day — and impressing everybody. The parents are helping tremendously with the group and helping us keep it fun. Of course we want to be competitive, but our emphasis is on having fun. Our focus is to keep the communication up and the pressure down. We want everybody to understand the priorities of family, work and paddling,” said Tihada.

He added that the club currently has nine canoes for training and competing, with a recent addition being an Encore model that is well-suited for keiki paddlers.

“The Encore canoes sit lower in the water and have lower gunnels, so they’re good for the kids,” he explained. “We’re also getting a Lightening canoe that is designed for adult racing.”

The MCHCA will have seven regattas this year spanning the time frame from June 5 through July 24. The state championships will be held on Aug. 5 at Keehi Lagoon in Honolulu.

“Hopefully, we can do well again at states, and the men and women want to stay involved with the long distance season that starts after that. They have their sights set on the Molokai Channel race. Overall, I feel like the club is in good shape. Mike (Tihada) is doing a great job with the adults, and Nori (Tihada) is doing the same with the kids. He gets a lot of support with the young ones from Patty B. Kauhane, Al Nip, Manny Portabes, Rayleen Kama, Courtney Asato and Eugene Tihada. They all do a super job for us,” Coach Joey concluded.

For more information, go to www.napilicanoeclub.com.