Brew, Blue Water — quite a splash
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Will Hoover
Six-person crews, rare sudsy brews and bright-yellow canoes were the main attraction at Koko Marina in Hawai'i Kai yesterday as more than 30 paddling teams splashed down for the second annual Kona Brew Blue Water Challenge.
The festivities were augmented by a couple of hundred cheering fans gathered at the Kona Brewing Co. and Brew Pub. Others lined up along the perimeter of the marina.
Ostensibly a canoe race, the occasion gave most folks an excuse to laugh it up, quaff a few brews, score some pizza, and raise money for a worthy cause: The Sierra Club Hawai'i chapter's Blue Water Campaign.
"What we're trying to do is to get folks out for team building, and have a good time," said Jeff Mikulina, direction of the chapter.
The Blue Water Campaign is a statewide program to keep Hawai'i's waters clean, healthy and protected from runoff and pollution.
Organizers raised an estimated $5,000 for the campaign yesterday though entrant fees, door-prize tickets and a silent auction.
Mattson Davis, president of the Kona Brewing Co., further motivated competitors by announcing that this year's Paddling for Clean Water champs would win a free pau-hana party for 25 at the marina pub on a date of their choosing.
He also introduced a frothy concoction dubbed "Paddler's Pilsner," which was brewed especially for the day's event.
"It's a spicy, hoppy beer," Davis said. "And it's only available one day a year, and only right here."
Last year's competition hosted a couple of dozen pros sloshing it out in one-man canoes. This time, the participation was wide open to six-person crews — including veteran paddle pullers and others who barely knew which end of the stick went in the water.
"I've never been in a canoe before today," confessed Rebecca Pang, who was on an all-woman team know as The PR Pirates. Each member showed up in black, with an eye patch and a bright-pink head scarf. "I've never held a paddle before."
According to Dawn Hirai, senior account executive for the public relations firm Stryker Weiner & Yokota, which the team represented, they had practiced a total of one time by lining up office chairs in the hallway.
After a male team known as Up To The Gills won a semifinal heat, paddler Gary Gill remarked: "I'm told I was holding my paddle backward through the first two races. Imagine what I'll be like when I get it right."
"We're going to unleash him in the final," promised Gill's brother, Tony Gill.
One team to watch was The Honolulu Firefighters representing Starbucks/ Jamba Juice, which qualified for the finals by coming in second to the Gills team in the semifinals.
"We have a plan," said Kalihi Kai firefighter Kim Rogge.
"We're holding back. We look weak, and then we'll come from behind in the final and beat them all."
When the Firefighters team came in third, Rogge was humble.
"It didn't work," he said.
"We were holding back a little too long. Our timing was off."
At least they had beaten the Gills team, which finished fourth. Second place went to Aino Kea, representing C.B. Richard Ellis.
The 2005 Challenge Championship went to Na Pua O Maunalua, a team representing a kids' ocean stewardship organization of the same name headed by Nainoa Thompson, navigator of the Hokule'a voyaging canoe.
"Our strategy?" pondered team paddler Bobby Takei after their victory.
"We drank a lot of beer.
"And we ate a lot of pizza.
"It was important to be fueled up."
Reach Will Hoover at email@example.com.