Hui Nalu’s 100 Years Of Paddling

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - May 21, 2008
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Hui Nalu youth crews practice for the paddle around Oahu
Hui Nalu youth crews practice for the paddle around Oahu

It was 100 years ago when three of Hawaii’s finest water-men came together with a similar dream. In 1908, Knute Cottrell, Kenneth Winter and the legendary Duke Kahanamoku shared a vision of providing a healthy environment where children could learn about the sport of canoe paddling. It was the start of Hui Nalu Canoe Club.

“Our whole focus is to maintain the ideals and values they set - family, community and education,” says club president Bruce Blankenfeld. “We want to create a sense of place for kids - a place to come to learn and to keep out of trouble. Their dream is still alive today.”

Their founders’ ability to dream big has inspired club officials to do the same. In celebration of Hui Nalu’s 100th year, club members will paddle around Oahu starting on Saturday, May 24 and ending on Monday, May 26. They’re calling their centennial paddle effort Ka’apuni O’ahu.

“We had a vision of doing something different, something huge and memorable to mark this 100th year,” says Blankenfeld. “At first, it started off as a paddle across the state, but after talking story we decided this was the best option and a great way to learn about the island and its history. We wanted to do something everyone in the club could participate in.”

The course is an estimated 100 miles long, and will consist of 18 legs varying in distance and degree of difficulty. Blankenfeld says safety is their No. 1 concern and he knows there will be some challenging legs.

“We rated each leg, easy, medium and experienced, just from what we know about the ocean,” he says. “Some areas are not as protected as others, so for rough waters we’ll fill the crews with experienced paddlers.”

Each leg also will be dedicated to an honoree, someone from the club who has left an impact on the community over the past century. As part of the event, club members also will participate in volunteer service projects along the route. They will assist several non-profit groups that care for the land.

“We have the good fortune to hook up with the Nature Conservancy, which is already involved in many cleanup efforts,” says Blankenfeld. “Since we’re going to be in those neighborhoods, we thought we’d help. It is a perfect learning opportunity for our community - educational and cultural.”

One of their first stops will be at He’eia, where they will help the non-profit organization Paepae O He’eia. The Windward Oahu group is dedicated to caring for the He’eia Fishpond.

Their second community effort will be at Nanakuli Beach Park, where they will meet with Nani ‘O Wai’anae, a non-profit grass-roots organization committed to preserving Hawaii’s environment. And finally, on Monday, they’ll stop at their home-base at Maunalua Bay, where they’ll team up with Malama Maunalua, a community-based organization that strives to restore the health of the area.

“We want to include everyone - kids, novices and our kupuna,” says Blankenfeld. “It’s going to be a big effort, but we’re getting a lot of support from different communities. We have partnerships and sponsorships.”

Blankenfeld says this entire project is about laulima - the Hawaiian word for cooperation and working together. “Everyone is going to do something and, in the end, it’s going to be so much fun we won’t even think about the effort.”

Setting the course for the next 100 years.


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