Team Hawai'i on top Down Under
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Team Hawai'i put on a canoe paddling clinic both in and out of the water last weekend in Australia.
Team Hawai'i won virtually every race of the Powerade Hamilton Island Cup, which is considered the biggest canoe paddling event in Australia.
Most impressive, Team Hawai'i won the 26-mile marathon race in record time on Sunday.
"We had a good mix of bigger guys and lighter guys," Team Hawai'i steersman Karel Tresnak Jr. said. "When you throw guys together for a race like this, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Fortunately for us, it worked."
The crew featured five paddlers from the Outrigger Canoe Club (Tresnak, Jimmy Austin, Kapono Brown, Byron Ho and Mike Kane), two from Hawaiian Canoe Club (Mael Carey and J.B. Guard), one from Kailua Canoe Club (Donovan Leandro), and one from California (Danny Ching). They were coached by John Puakea.
"We had some strong paddlers in the group," Guard said. "But I think what helps make it work is we just try to stay quiet and do our job."
Team Hawai'i completed the 26-mile race in 3 hours, 2 minutes, 17.68 seconds.
A similar Team Hawai'i crew set the previous record of 3:06:53 last year. Eight of the nine paddlers from last year's crew returned to defend the title and establish the new record (Carey was the new paddler added to the roster this year).
Around 60 teams participated in the event.
Winds were light during the 26-mile race, but strong currents ran with and against the canoes at various stages of the course.
"It's really technical because of the tide," Austin said. "And sometimes it's harder when you're in the lead because the teams behind you can see what you're running into."
Near the halfway point of the race, Team Hawai'i got stuck in a patch of "dead water," allowing Mooloolaba of Australia to take the lead.
"We had a good six- to eight-boat lead on them and they shot right past us," Austin said. "We just stayed calm and caught them eventually. But it's incredible how much the currents come into play."
Mooloolaba eventually finished second, around four minutes after Team Hawai'i.
Team Hawai'i also swept the shorter races earlier in the week, winning the 10-mile race, the 1,000-meter sprint and the 500-meter sprint.
"We made some mistakes in those other races, but still managed to pull it out," Austin said. "And I think that helped us in the (26-mile) race. By then, we knew which combinations worked and which ones didn't."
What's more, Tresnak won the individual 10-mile race, and Ching won both the individual 5-mile race and 500-meter sprint.
"It's a great atmosphere if you're into paddling," Tresnak said. "It's the best event of anywhere around the world as far as organization."
The Hamilton Island Cup is also one of the rare canoe paddling events that offers prize money, and Team Hawai'i split $7,000.
"The Australians probably don't like us coming there and breaking records and winning all the trophies, but it's also good for the sport to have an international field," Tresnak said.
But the Hawai'i paddlers did not just take the money and run.
They conducted several clinics for the Australian paddlers, offering tips on training and paddling techniques.
"There were maybe 200 people showing up," Tresnak said. "That really showed how much the sport is growing."
There were several other crews from Hawai'i called Team Hawai'i in the Hamilton Island Cup. One Team Hawai'i crew placed first in the women's masters division of the 26-mile race. Another Team Hawai'i crew placed third in the men's senior masters division of the 26-mile race.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.