The Coldest Prize In Paddling
Wednesday - December 22, 2010
Eighteen years ago, brothers Jim and John Foti and several other Lanikai Canoe Club paddlers recognized the need for a one-man canoe race that would fill a void for paddlers looking to compete. The break between the annual Molokai Hoe in October and the start of the Kanaka Ikaika season in January was too long for most, and those competitive juices had nowhere to flow.
The group of friends came up with the idea to host a fun race at their home waters in Windward Oahu. They named it the Lanikai Cold Pack Classic.
“The race meant OK, now you can start training,” laughs co-founder and longtime Lanikai Canoe Club member Jim Foti. “If you were training prior to the cold pack race, then you were cheating. It also gave us another excuse to have a party!”
The name of the race says it all. Competitors pay a $20 entry fee and are asked to bring a cold pack of their favorite beverage for the “canoe cooler.” A six-man fiber-glass canoe is filled with ice and beverages for the post-race celebration and awards ceremony.
“It was an improvisational thing at the time of the race’s inception,” recalls Foti of the now-famous canoe cooler. “We all thought, ‘We have a lot of beer here, where are we going to put it all?‘Then someone said, ‘Hey, there’s a canoe, that looks good!’ And it started from there.”
The event has since expanded. As the sport has grown, so has the number of competitors. New disciplines such as stand-up paddling and rudderless canoes have led to added categories and divisions.
“Back in 1993 hardly anyone had one-man canoes,” recalls Foti. “We were lucky if there were 15 canoes on the beach, and now look at the sport. Add in the surf skis and SUP paddlers, and we have quite a field. The objective to help grow the sport was achieved and we’re having fun.”
There are two courses for competitors to choose from: a short course, which is about 3.5 miles long, and a long course, about 5.5 miles. And like many great sporting events, this one is rich in tradition for the champion.
The Masters at Augusta, Ga., has the green jacket ceremony, the Manoa Cup Champion is tossed into the pool at Oahu Country Club, and Lanikai Cold Pack Classic winners enjoy a unique celebration of their own.
“The winner gets a full-body dip in the ice-canoe cooler,” laughs Foti. “And it’s always great when you get someone who has no idea what’s going on.”
This year’s event was one of the largest to date, with more than 80 competitors - including more than 30 women. Will Reichenstein, a student from Southern California attending the University of Hawaii for a semester, scored a stunning victory with an impressive time of 37 minutes and 24 seconds. Reichenstein finished more than a minute ahead of multi-world champion Karel Tresnak Jr. and longtime Lanikai paddler Mike Pedersen, earning Reichenstein the prestigious dip in the canoe cooler.
“The look on his face was priceless - he didn’t expect it,” says Foti. “He was expecting a perpetual trophy that doesn’t exist. He was sitting in the canoe probably thinking, ‘I’m supposed to be enjoying this?’”
The Lanikai Cold Pack Classic - still a classic after all these years.
“When we started this we didn’t think we’re going to make this a long-standing event, it just kind of happened,” says Foti. “We’re stoked it is still alive after all these years.”
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