Who Is Stealing From Isle Paddlers?

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - March 09, 2011
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Thieves hit the men’s U.S. National Olympic Kayak Program twice at the Ala Wai canoe halau it uses for storage

There’s a thief among us and he’s targeting canoe paddlers and their equipment. The tight-knit community is on high alert after several thefts of oneman canoes, canoe parts and paddles over the past few months.

Any theft is disturbing, but when it affects Hawaii’s youths, that’s when it becomes an outrage.

Several weeks ago someone stole a new rudder off an OC-1 Pegasus at Lanikai Park. The oneman canoe is used by Windward Oahu children as part of a thriving youth program. A week later, a thief stole the boat’s brand new ama.

The expensive canoe was donated by business owners to serve the local community. Club members have offered a $500 reward for information on the thief and for a “safer canoe world.”

But that’s just the beginning. On Christmas Day someone broke into the Roosevelt High School canoe team’s storage shed and stole 15 canoe paddles. A new paddle can run as high as $250. Thankfully, Dr. Marshall Kim, a Roosevelt graduate, stepped up and donated $2,500 to the team to replace the stolen goods.

“I felt sorry for those kids,” says Kim, “so I decided to make a donation so they can go out and purchase new paddles.”

Two months before that, a thief broke into a canoe halau at the Ala Wai Canal and stole an outboard motor used by the men’s U.S. National Olympic Kayak Program. The program, which has had its budget slashed, raised funds to replace the motor. But in early November, the thief hit again and walked away with the new motor.

In this case, a business owner answered the distress call. Frank Coluccio of Frank Coluccio Construction purchased a new motor for the program and donated equipment, materials and manpower to secure the halau.

“It blew me away, just amazing,” says Guy Wilding, U.S. Sprint National Team Coach who brought the men’s U.S. National Olympic Kayak

Program to Hawaii because of our rich talent. “I would say all the work, equipment and motor cost $4,000 to $5,000 - unbelievable.”

“The guys all wanted to donate some time and step up, and we decided we’d help them out,” says a humble Coluccio. “It’s real important. I didn’t realize they were training for the Olympics.”

Michael Hawkins was the latest victim. His OC-1 Fuze was recently stolen from a surfboard locker room at his building in Waikiki. The green-and-white vessel and ama were snatched along with a 9-foot-8-inch surfboard. Hawkins says surveillance video shows the items were taken away in the back of a silver Nissan Frontier Crew Cab pickup.

There have been many other thefts of individual paddles and equipment all across Oahu. Many in the local paddling community are wondering if there is a chop shop out there and if someone is selling canoe parts and paddles to unsuspecting customers on the street.

The thefts come during a time when budgets for many programs are being cut. Private businesses and donors are doing their part to keep the sport and, in some cases, Olympic dreams alive.

It’s unclear if this is the work of one individual or group. But whoever it is, it’s just a matter of time before they’re caught. The community is too small for someone not to know who is behind these crimes.

No one sells a used ama or rudder without a canoe, and most paddles have unique markings on them. If you are approached, ask questions, and if the deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it is coming at someone else’s expense.

The old saying “what goes around comes around” could happen here. One paddler said it best in a blog: “If you know this person, my suggestion is don’t paddle too close to him because big time bachi (bad luck or bad aura) might go down on them.”

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