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Kahana Canoe Club focuses on family and having fun

By Staff | Jul 7, 2016

Kahana Canoe Club has strong competitors in its Open Women (pictured) and Novice A Women crews. PHOTO BY CHUCK CLARKE.

LAHAINA – Some 40 years ago, a group of families centered in a small fishing village north of Kaanapali organized themselves into a club that would follow the culture of the Hawaiian canoe. In the tradition of ‘ohana, the Naleieha family led the formation of Kahana Canoe Club based on the values of their relatives.

Today, KCC remains an organization based upon the time-honored ways of its pioneers. John Kuia was among those that joined the club in those early years, and now, 35 years later as Kahana’s president, he remains a stalwart advocate for the standards and values of the club ‘ohana.

“We like to put the emphasis on education, culture and respect – like a family,” he said last week. “Main thing is that we have people, many in their 70s, having a good time getting into the water. It’s good people top to bottom, and that is what keeps the club moving in the right direction.”

“We have our roots in Kahana with the Naleieha ‘ohana that started the club, and now Canoe Beach (Hanakao’o Beach Park) is the important place for all of West Maui. So we all malama the place, all work together to be family-oriented and work forward from there,” Kuia continued.

There have been competitive highlights through the years – as in the 1984 county championship, an AA state title in 2001, as well as a sixth place finish last year with two gold medals, a silver and a bronze – but Kuia and longtime KCC Board Member Diane Delos Reyes much prefer to talk about the $20,000 in scholarships the organization has presented to graduating high school seniors from Maui, and particularly those from Lahainaluna High School, since 2008.

The Kahana Boys crew paddles in after a race. PHOTO BY PATTY KAHAHANE.

“The club works hard to keep the scholarship program going for the graduating seniors and for continuing scholarships as well,” said Delos Reyes. “We have one continuing recipient who is entering law school this year!”

She added that Kahana’s popular smoked meat concession at the Maui County Fair is a vital fundraiser for the scholarships and equipment maintenance.

Thus far in the 2016 Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association, KCC is in sixth place in the overall standings and looking forward to the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (HCRA) State Championships to be held at Keehi Lagoon in Honolulu on Aug. 6.

Kahana will likely enter the AA classification for clubs with eight or less crews at states.

Kuia and Delos Reyes are joined in the leadership of KCC by Vice President Danielle Kruk, Treasurers Troy Jones and Annie Wilson, and Secretary Cynthia Conrad. The Kahana coaching staff is led by Dale Angel and includes Riese Perry and Danielle Kruk, keiki mentors Van Fischer, Liz Hongo, Ana Farmer and May Wedelin, and senior kupuna coaches Walter “Wala” Delos Reyes and Jim Kohler.

“We enter 25 of the regatta races, so we don’t have as many crews racing as the big clubs do,” explained Kuia. “We do get some quality crews out there – like our Open Women and Novice A Women crews – but the important thing is that we have good people up and down the roster and we’re getting more people involved all the time. We’re having a fun time together, and that’s what matters the most – all in the family.”