Youth crews leading the charge for Napili Canoe Club
LAHAINA – Summer’s here, and that signals the start of the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association’s inshore regatta season for the Valley Isle’s nine clubs.
The races took off with a bang two weeks ago on the West Side with the Naleieha Regatta sponsored by Kahana Canoe Club at a jam-packed Hanakao’o Beach Park (Canoe Beach).
Napili Canoe Club, one of three organizations here on the West Side, finished the day in fourth place, three slots behind the behemoth of Kahului, Hawaiian Canoe Club, the dominant force on Maui and across the state for decades. But for the smaller clubs, NCC continues to contend with its youth crews leading the charge.
The keiki lineups for Napili racked up four gold medals early in the day and accounted for more points with runner-up finishes as the race day progressed. The adult crews continued the charge in the afternoon events to help the Black and Gold climb the ladder into the top rungs in the final standings.
Veteran club President Jeanne Gonzalez noted that NCC has 170 active members and fills about 30 of the 46 inshore regatta events.
She had high praise for the club’s board of directors and the coaching staff.
“We have so many connected and concerned leaders that truly care about the keiki and the continuation of canoe paddling. There so many key people that contribute so much time and energy to the success that we enjoy here -it’s truly amazing,” she said.
Gonzalez is joined by Vice President Theresa Marzan, Secretary Emily Vincent and Treasurer Carol Elterman on the board of directors. The coaching staff is led by longtime elite mentors Joey Tihada, Steven “Da Bear” Keahi, Nori Tihada, Eugene Tihada, Colin Delos Reyes, Al Nip, Isaiah Makaiwi, Bubba Kukahiko, Kona Maielua and Manny Portables.
“All of these people and the Lahaina community are so involved with youth sports and supporting and guiding the kids. It’s just wonderful to be a part of,” said Gonzalez.
President Jeanne had special praise for Portables, the stalwart caretaker of the club’s canoes and equipment, as well as a steward of the hale grounds in general.
“We have the best equipment people ever,” she said in reference to Manny. “He is the key guy in keeping care for the canoes – we simply couldn’t do it without him. I just couldn’t do this job without the support of the board members and coaches. Danae Marin is another one who helps all of the clubs tremendously, as she is one of our adult paddlers and is able to facilitate things from her position as West Maui Parks and Recreation supervisor.”
According to Gonzalez, Napili will host the Keiki O Maui Regatta (usually run by Lahaina Canoe Club) on June 25. She explained that LCC will be taking a break this year, and NCC will step in to sub for their neighbor club.
As part of that event, Napili will be running an important fundraiser with its annual raffle and silent auction.
“We’ll have some wonderful prizes, including a SUP board and other equipment from Hi-Tech and courtesy of Kim Ball, hotel stays, dinners at local restaurants, adventure tours, and much, much more,” she said. “So, we’re hoping that all will come down to the beach, enjoy the races, and support canoe paddling while having a happy day.”