The True Legend Of Rosie Lum

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - June 04, 2008
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Rosie Lum has been coaching kids for 35 years
Rosie Lum has been coaching kids for 35 years

For 35 years, canoe paddling coach Rosie Lum has extended her hands to Hawaii’s youth, literally touching the lives of thousands.

“I coach about 130 children every year so if you times that by 35 years - oh, my,” she says, reflecting on her impact on the canoe paddling community.

If you complete the multiplication problem, that’s well over 4,500 children - and that’s not even counting adults served.

“I love coaching, especially kids, and I do it because it’s wonderful being a part of their young lives,” says Lum. “Every year it’s a new challenge, and with young people you know you’re making a difference. I love being a part of that.”

Lum’s coaching career spans more than 35 years with various canoe clubs across Oahu. Whether it was Waikiki Surf Club, Hui Nalu, Hui Lanakila or Healani, her priorities have remained consistent.

“I’m pretty much a gypsy when it comes to canoe clubs,” she says, laughing. “But wherever I am, it’s the same. I love being a part of watching personalities develop and seeing children grow into something beautiful. It’s not just about being a good paddler - it’s about being a good student, a good citizen and a good child at home.”


For more than 30 years, Lum also has served as a coach at Kamehameha Schools.

“The late Kala Kukea and I interviewed with Cal Chai for the positions three decades ago,” Lum recalls. “We just wanted to coach and make a difference, but when we heard we were going to get paid $300, we were ecstatic. We coached together for years until he passed away.”

Lum, who is a Roosevelt graduate, says she appreciates the concept at Kamehameha where everybody paddles and no one is turned away.

“One year we had 230 girls come out and we served all of them,” says Lum. “It’s important to give them something to be a part of - that’s why our local clubs are so important.”

This year Lum is back at Healani Canoe Club, where she’s coaching the women’s novice crew. Canoe paddling has always been a family affair and this year is no different. Her son Mike is coaching the club’s keiki crews, while daughter Mahealani is coaching at Windward-based Lanikai Canoe Club.

“Paddling has always been in our lives,” says Lum of her family’s commitment. “It makes me happy to see that my children are now touching the lives of our future.”

Lum is one of the pioneers of the sport. In 1975, she and 17 other women took on the Kaiwi Channel in what was the first crossing between Molokai and Oahu by all-women teams.


“We didn’t know any better and we had no idea how major this accomplishment was at the time,” says Lum. “When I go out there and I watch the race today, I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come, the equipment and, of course, the athletes. Don’t tell women they can’t do something. If you give them the opportunity they’ll accomplish anything.”

The 65-year-old Lum has more energy than most 20-year-olds, but she says every so often she’s reminded about how long she’s been coaching.

“Some of the kids I’ve coached are parents today and I’ve had some say, ‘Auntie Rosie, you know my mom, you coached her 20 years ago,” she chuckles. “It puts everything into perspective of how old I am, but you know what? You never age with these young people. My reward is greater than people can even imagine.”

Our reward is she’s still in the game, touching lives.

 

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