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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 21, 2001

For Heines, it's a family affair

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Led by the Heine family, the Hui Lanakila Canoe Club is hoping to kick some heinie during Sunday's 23rd annual Bank of Hawaii Na Wahine O Ke Kai.

Sisters Niuli'i Heine and Auli'i Hirahara, their brother, Kalama, and his wife, Lehua, from left, are a part of the Hui Lanakila Canoe Club that will race in Sunday's Na Wahine O Ke Kai.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Approximately 70 crews are expected to participate in the 41-mile race from Moloka'i to O'ahu that is considered the world championship of long-distance outrigger canoe paddling for women.

While just about every canoe club in Hawai'i can claim a feeling of 'ohana, Hui Lanakila lives it.

Before the racing even begins, the Hui Lanakila family presence will be made loud and clear when renowned kumu hula Leina'ala Heine blesses the participants with an ancient Hawaiian chant.

Two of her daughters, Niuli'i Heine and Auli'i Hirahara, will then paddle for Hui Lanakila. Her son, Kalama Heine, is the women's coach for Hui Lanakila. Kalama's wife, Lehua, will also paddle for the club. "Uncle" Sam Heine, Leina'ala's husband, is the unofficial ambassador of the club.

"Our ancestors are there too, because we spread my grandparents' ashes (off Moloka'i)," Auli'i said. "I get goose bumps every time my mom does the opening ceremony, and having my family there makes it special."

What's more, both of Hui Lanakila's crews will be vying for division trophies. Niuli'i and Lehua will paddle in the masters (35-and-older) crew; Auli'i will paddle for an open crew in the koa canoe division.

"It would be a big thing to win either one," said Kalama, who has been coaching the women for three years. "We're kind of an up-and-coming club, so we've talked about setting some high goals."

The Hui Lanakila masters crew has already achieved success this season. Most notable, they won first-place masters trophies at the Dad Center Race and E Lau Hoe Race. They are considered one of Hawai'i's top masters entries, although several crews from California are also expected to contend in that division.

The Hui Lanakila masters crew consists of Lenora Alama, Colleen Chun, Lehua Heine, Niuli'i Heine, Kuumomi Ho, Pauahi Ioane, Kristi Kupele, Kim Martinez, Deneen McNicoll, Robin Nonaka, Cheryl Tracy and Adrienne Wilson-Yamasaki.

A majority of them are Hui Lanakila veterans, but others came from neighboring clubs that were not fielding masters crews. One of the transfers was Niuli'i, who had been a long-time member of Waikiki Surf Club prior to this year.

"I knew they were building something," she said. "And with my brother coaching, I decided it was time to come over."

Niuli'i, who is 37 and older than Kalama by two years, is one of several long-time paddlers in the crew.

"I think there's over 200 years experience among that group," Kalama said. "I tell them what to do, they know exactly what I'm talking about. It makes my job that much easier."

Kuumomi Ho, one of the crew's steerswomen, added: "It's not just a strong group, it's a smart group. But Kalama is the one who put it all together."

Still, the family said it has been a growing process. Lehua, for example, was often asked to be the crew's spokesperson with Kalama early on.

"Everybody used to say, 'eh, go tell your husband this or go tell your husband that,' " she said. "After a while, I said, 'you know what, you tell him yourself because he's your coach, too.' "

As another example, Niuli'i had to learn to obey the orders of her younger brother.

"We grew up around sports, so we were always taught that the coach has the final word," she said. "When we're away from here, I'll give my opinion. But when we're out on that canoe, what he says goes."

Lehua, a member of the singing group Na Leo Pilimehana, met Kalama three years ago when she first joined Hui Lanakila. They have since married and now have a 10-month-old daughter, Malie.

But there are no coach's pets in the crew.

"He's fair, I can tell you that," Lehua said. "When I'm tired, it's not like I can tell him, 'Honey, I want to get out now.' I know I have to do what everybody else is doing or I won't paddle."

Kalama's youngest sister, Heali'i Kihune, 31, is also a Hui Lanakila member, but not paddling this season due to work commitments.

"Relatives or not, everybody is equal in this club," Kalama said. "It's like one big family."

• D.C. crew: After seeing the destruction of last week's terrorist attacks first-hand, paddling across the Kaiwi Channel would seem easy.

The Washington Canoe Club, which practices on the Potomac River about two miles away from the Pentagon, is entering the Na Wahine O Ke Kai for the first time.

"It's been a dream of ours to do it," said Washington paddler Amy Potter. "After last week, we weren't sure what was going to happen. We went through all the (airport) delays and changed a lot of our original plans, but we made it."

• Foreign flavor: Four crews from foreign countries are entered in this year's field, and three are from Canada. The fourth, Panamuna Riggeroos from Australia, won back-to-back Na Wahine O Ke Kai races in 1997 and 1998.