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West Side canoe clubs have different plans for the summer

By Staff | Jun 25, 2020

Shaina Auld is a leader for Kahana Canoe Club.

LAHAINA – The deep reverence for the culture of the Hawaiian outrigger canoe within the island communities all across the state cannot be understated. From keiki to kupuna, lifelong locals to transplants, the affection for the traditions of the canoe hold an important link to the history of Polynesia.

So as life has been turned upside down by the cloud of COVID-19, the joyous rites of spring – including the Maui County Hawaiian Canoe Association (MCHCA) regattas – have been wiped of the calendar. Preseason races, the inshore regatta events and the long distance classics – including the Molokai Channel races – have all been canceled.

The three West Side organizations – Kahana, Lahaina and Napili Canoe Clubs – have all held leadership meetings to set up a road map going forward. In some ways similar, and disparate in others, KCC, LCC and NCC will continue to nurture the culture that is so close to their hearts.

As is the case for most of the club members, current Kahana leader Shaina Auld grew up spending most of her summer days down at Hanakao’o Beach Park, aptly named Canoe Beach, as the home site for the West Side clubs and the pristine site for inshore regattas and state championship events.

Grown up and seasoned in the Green and Purple of KCC, Auld reported that the opening of practices for OC-6 (six-paddler canoes) by Maui County last week opens the door for the club to begin practices and activities at Canoe Beach. Twice a week practices limited to groups of 30 will be held for kids and adults.

Boi Crichton said Lahaina Canoe Club will proceed safely within the protocols of MCHCA and the county.

“Besides allowing ourselves to get into the canoes, my main priority is to make sure our keiki will be having fun. We’re trying to link up with other canoe clubs to take the clubs and keiki up to places like Kahoma Valley and Honokohau. My greatest memories as a keiki were outside of the canoe, so now I want to make sure all the keiki have that same feeling. When you have that bond outside of the canoe, that winning feel comes naturally. Another exciting thing as a club is we’re hoping to be able to set a date for our new ultralight Matahina from Tahiti,” said Auld.

Next door at Lahaina Canoe Club, Boi Crichton leads an energetic group that will follow a similar practice schedule to KCC, but with a smaller group.

“We’ll start small, so that we can proceed safely within the protocols of MCHCA and the county. Our main concerns will be to follow the rules as best we can. We’ll offer free memberships to help get the families experiencing hardships and to help the community. We’ll be helping families through the Queen Liliuokalani Foundation with distribution of produce boxes next week. We just want to help the community by getting the kids out and getting the kids fed,” Crichton explained last week.

The message was less optimistic from long time NCC leader Jeanne Gonzalez following their board meeting last Sunday.

“Sadly and with tears, we will be holding back from practicing due to our hope to keep our keiki and kupuna safe. Our primary concern is for the health and safety of the community. We’re still wary of COVID-19, so we’re pretty much done for this season. This is a big hole in our lives and so much is being taken away from the kids, but it just wouldn’t be fair and would create too much risk for the kupuna,” she concluded.

Jeanne Gonzalez said Napili Canoe Club won't hold practices in order to keep keiki and kupuna safe.

Sadly, the 2020 canoe season is pretty much gone, but the strength to persevere within the culture of the Hawaiian outrigger canoe remains.

The lasting spirit of pioneers such as Earl Kukahiko, Dougie Tihada, George Paoa and countless others will surely live on to inspire the generations to come.