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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Moloka'i paddling winners will cash in

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Crossing the Kaiwi Channel might still be a priceless experience for canoe paddlers, but winning a Moloka'i-to-O'ahu race will now come with a payout.

Thanks to sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch, the winning crews in the women's Na Wahine O Ke Kai and the men's Moloka'i Hoe will each receive $5,000.

The Na Wahine O Ke Kai is scheduled for Sept. 24; the Moloka'i Hoe is scheduled for Oct. 8. The 41-mile races across the Kaiwi Channel are considered the world championship of long-distance team canoe paddling.

"As canoe paddlers, we do this sport because we love it it's never been about the money," said Lauren Bartlett, a paddler on the Team Bradley crew that won the Na Wahine O Ke Kai last year. "But this is a huge bonus. I'm sure it's going to step up the competition level."

Na Wahine O Ke Kai race director Hannie Anderson said it is the first time in the 28-year history of the women's race that a cash prize will be awarded to the winner.

She said the Moloka'i Hoe offered a small prize purse several years ago, but the $5,000 up for grabs this year is the largest in 55-year history of that race.

"The big races in Australia and Tahiti give money, so it makes sense that the biggest race here would give money," said Jim Foti, a paddler for Lanikai Canoe Club, which is the two-time defending champion of the Moloka'i Hoe. "Hopefully, this will spark others (sponsors) to join in and make it an even bigger event."

Anderson said Anheuser-Busch agreed to a one-year deal to put up the cash prizes.

"Hopefully, everything goes well this year and we can do it again next year," she said.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.