The Thrill Of Paddling At ‘States’

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - July 29, 2009
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It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 or 72. The adrenaline rush on race morning at the state canoe championships - ‘states,’ as they say - is indescribable. After months of practice, thousands of push-ups, crunches and pull-ups, it comes down to one sprint.

The scene is duplicated for each event. Crews gingerly approach the starting line, and are careful not to inch past it - or face disqualification. Paddlers are focused on the official boat that will start the race, blocking out the deafening cheers coming from supporters on the beach.

A yellow flag is raised, indicating the start is seconds away. Up and down the line you can hear steersmen shout, “Yellow flag, yellow flag, paddles up!”

By now your heart is racing. Some are going through their mental checklist. Top hand over the canoe, lower your shoulder, deep blade and rip.

Others are replaying the hundreds of hours of training it took to get here, knowing only a chosen few have done enough to qualify - knowing this is the best of the best.


Then without warning the official boat raises a red flag and then a green one. “Go, go, go, bury your blades!”

And they’re off!

There is nothing quite like it.

Hilo Bay will host this year’s state canoe championships Saturday. While Lanikai Canoe Club of the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association returns to defend its crown, unlike past seasons there are no clear favorites.

Kailua Canoe Club recently ended Lanikai’s run of three consecutive OHCRA championships, and Kaneohe Canoe Club captured its seventh straight Na Ohana O Na Hui Waa championship.

Kaneohe’s title was especially impressive considering Kaneohe outscored everyone despite being in the AA division for medium-sized clubs.

Seven-time state champion Hawaiian Canoe Club of Maui will no doubt look to bring the crown back to the Valley Isle. Several clubs from the Big Island and Kauai, along with Outrigger and Waikiki Beach Boys of Oahu will also contend for the overall title.

But when it comes to the state championships, it’s about scoring points. The more crews a club qualifies, the more opportunities to score.

So while much emphasis is on the team title, the real battles happen during each race.

Heading into the big event this Saturday, there are several Oahu crews that have not lost all season.

From the Hui Waa Association: * Koa Kai Men’s Golden Masters 55 * Manu o Ke Kai Women’s Grand Masters 60 * Lokahi Men’s Senior Masters 50 * Waikiki Beach Boys Novice A Women * Waikiki Beach Boys Freshman Women * Waikiki Beach Boys Sophomore Women * Waikiki Beach Boys Senior Women

And from the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association: * Lanikai Girls 13 * Lanikai Boys 15 * Leeward Kai Boys 16 * Waikiki Surf Club Girls 18 * Lanikai Novice A Men * Hui Lanakila Junior Women * Hui Lanakila Senior Women * Outrigger Senior Men * Outrigger Men’s Golden Masters 60 * Kailua Men’s Senior Masters 50


There will be several interesting races to watch, including the Senior Women’s race. The event will feature two clubs that have dominated their respective associations, Hui Lanakila and Waikiki Beach Boys.

But the race of the day may happen late in the afternoon when undefeated Kailua and Lokahi line up for the Men’s Senior Masters 50 event. Lanikai will be in the mix as well. It could be a photo finish.

Thousands will line the shore at Hilo Bay on Saturday, all sporting their club colors, logos and jerseys and screaming their team cheers. It’s an event like no other.

The hard work is done, it’s payoff time! Paddles up ... pull!

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