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Luna paddlers in the mix for berths at the state championships

By Staff | Dec 28, 2017

Some 55 students turned out for the junior varsity and varsity paddling crews this season.

LAHAINA – They should be dubbed the Hanakao’o ‘Ohana for their dedication to promoting the tradition of the Hawaiian canoe. The Tihadas, Keahis, Gonzalez and Asato clans, and Portables are among the families and individuals that have dedicated so many years of their lives down at Canoe Beach as the leaders in the propagation of this most revered part of Polynesian culture.

Most importantly, these mentors continue to pass on this cultural tradition to the youth of Maui through their leadership of the summer club season and during the winter with the interscholastic competition.

For Lahainaluna High School, this involves Manny Portables, Steven “Da Bear” Keahi and Courtney Asato, all of whom spend so much time down at Canoe Beach (officially Hanakao’o Beach Park) throughout the year that they probably list the place as their primary address.

With longtime head coach Joey Tihada taking a leave of absence, Portables, Keahi and Asato form the coaching triumvirate leading the Lunas for the 2017-18 Maui Interscholastic League season.

Lahainaluna suffered through an off year, but the team is currently in the mix for gaining state qualification berths and moving up the MIL standings.

With one meet completed in the regular season, the Lunas are in the mix for the state spots in the boys, girls and mixed divisions.

According to co-head coach Portables, the team has had a strong turnout this year, with some 55 student-athletes comprising the roster for the varsity and junior varsity crews.

“Most of the kids paddle in the summer club season, so there is plenty of experience coming in. We started practicing in early November and come down here (to Canoe Beach) four times a week. We’ll compete in five regattas through the end of January, and the state races will be in Hilo on the Big Island on February 3.”

Coach Manny recognized the returning veterans on the roster that form the leadership core for the team. For the girls, that includes Marley Calapini, Victoria Decoite Wilsey, Dakota Delos Reyes, Stacia Eng, Lexa Ora’a, Alexia Plaza, Madison Runyon, Meilei Wagner and Brooke Whitehead.

The experienced boys leadership core is made up of Zachary Cabingas, Kai Casco, Jobe Catan Lono, Charles Jimenez, Poailani Kauhane, Daltin Lins and Kaikane Shim.

“We do have a strong core of experienced paddlers that are working together well,” Coach Manny said.

“We do have a strong chance to do well, but we need to focus in on what we do well, and we need to pay attention to keeping our grades up,” he continued.

“All in all, everybody is working well together with Coach Bear leading the training out in the water, Courtney (Asato) handling all the administrative details, and I work between the two – back and forth. We have a lot of experience together.”

He extended the team’s gratitude to Napili Canoe Club for its continuing support of youth paddling in the use of the organization’s equipment, including canoes, paddles and the hale down at Hanakao’o.