Celebrating 60 Years Of Paddling

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - October 29, 2008
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Waikiki Surf Club Molokai Hoe crew members (from left) Randy Chun, Sam Souza, Jeff Chee, Tony Guerrero, Wally Froiseth, Nappy Napoleon and Joe Gilman

A quick glance at the names who have represented Waikiki Surf Club over the past 60 years will give you an appreciation of the canoe club’s rich history and tradition. It starts with its founders, John Lind, Wally Froiseth and George Downing, and continues with others who have buried their blades to victory.

Blue Makua Sr., Sammy “Steamboat” Mokuahi Jr., Jammer Kekai, Rabbit Kekai, Dutchy Kino, Nappy Napoleon, Blue Makua Jr., Moke Perkins, Randy Chun, Tony Guerrero, Michael Tongg, Luana Froiseth, Niulii Heine and dozens more. They are some of the sport’s best and many of Hawaii’s greatest watermen and women.

“We took a lot of people off the streets and kept them busy and made them a lot healthier,” says Wally Froiseth. “Don’t get me wrong, not all of them were athletic when they first came out, but as they continued to paddle and work, they developed into great athletes. Some even became football stars!”

On Sunday Nov. 2, the club will honor its stars, founders and winning Molokai Hoe crews at the Disabled American Veterans Hall at Keehi Lagoon.

“It’s going to be a great day of reminiscing,” says Froiseth, who turns 89 in December. He pauses than laughs, “I don’t know how many more times we’ll meet to share memories. I know I’m shooting for 90!”

Froiseth has plenty to talk about. He was a member of the winning Molokai Hoe crews in 1953, 1955, 1962 and 1963.

“Great years, really great years,” Froiseth says proudly. “We picked up anyone who came on the beach and wanted to paddle - that was our policy: Accept everybody. I’m really happy to be part of that era.”

Froiseth went on to coach for several decades, leading the club to a dozen men’s division titles and two women’s crowns.

Local banking executive Tony “Ants” Guerrero was one of many athletes who found success at Waikiki Surf Club. Guerrero was a member of the 1969 winning Molokai Hoe crew along with Jeff Chee, Randy Chun, Joe Gilman, Dick Henning, Blue Makua Jr., Andy Miller, Nappy Napoleon and Michael Tongg.

“Paddling with legends like Blue, Dutchy, Jeff and Nappy taught me how to win,” says Guerrero. “We were all water-men, and I was very fortunate to be a part of the tradition.”

But Guerrero says when it came to Waikiki Surf Club, it wasn’t just about winning canoe races.

“We hosted the Makaha International Surf Championships for more than 20 years,” says Guerrero about the club’s annual fundraiser. “That is the grandfather of all surfing events, and it set the scene for big-wave surfing contests around the world.”

Many credit Froiseth’s leadership as a coach and mentor for the club’s longevity. He also found creative ways to raise funds for the club. Besides surf contests, they hosted luaus for tourists on Waikiki Beach and held dances at Waialae Country Club. His daughter Luana now steers the way leading WSC into the future.

“We have always had a great group of people who really dedicated themselves to working hard and serving the kids,” says Froiseth. “I’m kind of surprised it lasted this long, but I’m happy we did what we did 60 years ago.”

Guerrero says the timing of the celebration is perfect.

“You don’t really know how good you’ve got it until it’s not here,” says Guerrero, reflecting on the deaths of many who came before him. “We’re going to talk story and share, and I think it’s important the young people of Waikiki Surf Club know about our tradition.”

It’s a tradition established 60 years ago when three canoe paddlers shared a dream of competition, dedication and tradition. Their family continues to grow, and their legacy lives on.

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