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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

'Steamboat' big in many ways

 •  Obituaries

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sam "Steamboat" Mokuahi Jr., a powerful presence in professional wrestling and outrigger canoe paddling, died on Tuesday at his Hawai'i Kai home.

He would have been 72 today.

"To different people from different eras, he was different things," his oldest daughter Samantha Moikeha said. "To Mainland people in the 1950s, he was a big wrestler. In the '60s and '70s, it was Wrestling Hawaii. In the '80s and '90s, it was paddling and coaching. He was always doing something."

Mokuahi was battling Alzheimer's disease, according to his daughter.

Mokuahi was a multi-sport athlete at Roosevelt High, and then became an internationally known professional wrestler under the name "Sammy Steamboat."

"I got to travel around the country with him, so that was an exciting time," Moikeha said. "Wrestling was just one of those things he was good at. He was so strong."

After retiring from professional wrestling, his passion became outrigger canoe paddling.

He paddled and coached for several clubs, including Waikiki Surf Club, Outrigger and Hui Nalu. He coached Hui Nalu to the state championship in 1993.

"His word was absolute gold," said current Hui Nalu head coach Reney Ching. "He made a big impact on so many of us."

Mokuahi also had a big impact in helping canoe paddling become a sanctioned high school sport in Hawai'i in 2000. He helped several public schools build their own canoes for competition.

"He didn't just help get it rolling; he was THE person who got it rolling," Ching said. "Through his vision, the high school kids now have a state championship."

Moikeha said: "Of all the things he did, I think he enjoyed working with the kids the most."

Mokuahi is survived by his wife, Sheryll; brothers, Bernie Ching, Samson Mokuahi, Kevin Mokuahi and Shannon Mokuahi; children, Samantha Moikeha, Sabrina Mokuahi, Micah Mokuahi, Mekea Leoiki, Kapena Mokuahi, Jessica Keys and Mitchell Mokuahi; and 12 grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for May 20 at Maunalua Bay. Visitation will be at 8 a.m., followed by service at 10:30 a.m.

"My dad had no distinction of race or class," Moikeha said. "So if people want to come in shorts and slippers or in a suit, either way is fine. My dad wouldn't want to turn anybody away."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.