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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, October 7, 2006

Tales of the Kaiwi crossing

 •  Challenge across the Kaiwi

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

'Anuenue Canoe Club paddler Peter Caldwell spent nearly five years researching the history of local canoe racing for his book.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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For more than 50 years, stories of the Moloka'i-to-O'ahu canoe races have been circulating throughout the paddling world.

Stories like the first Moloka'i Hoe in 1952, when only three canoe clubs dared to cross the Kaiwi Channel.

Or stories like the Moloka'i Hoe in 1966, when 20-foot swells turned the race into a 41-mile battle of survival.

Or the first Na Wahine O Ke Kai in 1979, when women's canoe teams were finally allowed to cross the channel in competition.

All those stories and more are now captured in the book "Moloka'i-O'ahu through the Years."

Peter Caldwell, a paddler for 'Anuenue Canoe Club, authored the 288-page book after nearly five years of research.

"I didn't think it would end up being as big as it is," he said. "A lot of it was like a detective project as far as finding some of the old paddlers and photographs of the old races."

Caldwell said he interviewed more than 50 paddlers and officials for the book.

The text includes recaps and results of every Moloka'i Hoe from 1952 to 2005, and every Na Wahine O Ke Kai from 1979 to 2005.

There are also photographs from the 1950s to 2000s, including some exclusive shots from the first Moloka'i Hoe.

"I tracked down Phil Caricof, who was a photographer back in that first race," Caldwell said. "He's living in Costa Mesa (Calif.) now and he didn't even know if he had any of the negatives or photos, but he found it and was gracious enough to let me use some of the shots."

The book includes sidebars on some of the more recognizable paddlers, including Joseph "Nappy" Napoleon, JoJo Toeppner, Wally Froiseth, the late Rell Sunn and the late Kala Kukea.

Caldwell, a retired pediatrician, has competed in eight Moloka'i Hoe races. He is an active paddler, and is listed as an alternate in an 'Anuenue masters crew for tomorrow's Moloka'i Hoe.

He did not start paddling until he was in his 50s.

"Somebody at work told me I should try paddling because it was something fun and people of all ages were doing it," said Caldwell, 66. "I fell in love with it, and that's a big reason why I was able to do this book. It truly was a labor of love."

The book, published by Editions Limited, is expected to be in Hawai'i bookstores later this month. Retail price is $39.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.