Paddler's legacy will live on with Hui Lanakila
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Even after his death, Leighton Look will continue to be a guiding force for the Hui Lanakila Canoe Club.
Hui Lanakila's new fiberglass racing canoe was named in honor of Look this week.
The white canoe is named Lehuuila No Kalawai'a, which is Hawaiian for "A flash of lightning for the fisherman."
Look, one of the original members of Hui Lanakila, died Aug. 25 at the age of 52. He was critically injured during a diving accident in October 2004, and was paralyzed from the neck down ever since.
"The canoe is a Bradley Lightning, and the fisherman refers to Leighton," Hui Lanakila president Kim Martinez said. "It's definitely a special (canoe) because he meant so much to this club. It's going to be our top racing canoe."
The canoe will make its racing debut Sunday during the E Lau Hoe women's long-distance race. Hui Lanakila is considered one of the top contenders.
"Everybody knew Leighton, and what a great person he was," said Arlene Holzman, one of Hui Lanakila's female paddlers. "It's going to be an honor to be the first ones to race in that (canoe)."
Les Look, Leighton's younger brother, will lead the escort boat alongside the new canoe Sunday. It will be the first time in four years that Les will escort a Hui Lanakila crew.
"I have friends on Kaua'i who I've been helping out the last few years," Les said. "But it's eerie because one of Leighton's last wishes was for me to go back and help the women (at Hui Lanakila). He told me this was going to be a good year for them ... and this was before they got the canoe."
Look was a member of Hui Lanakila since it was formed in 1977. He served various stints as club president and head coach.
"Even in the years when he wasn't president or coach, everything had to go through him," said Raven Aipa, a paddler and assistant coach for the club. "And it wasn't like he demanded that. It was more like everybody else knew Leighton was the guy to talk to about anything with the club."
That's because Look knew a lot of things.
He was born on Lana'i, then moved with his parents to Moloka'i, then Wahiawa, then Niu Valley. He graduated from Kalani High School, where he was a football player.
He also graduated from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa with a civil engineering degree. He held several engineering jobs before taking up carpentry.
Most recently, he was a self-employed commercial fisherman.
"He was good at a lot of things, but he liked to do his own thing," said his father, Harold.
Look became a private fisherman in part so he could devote time to the building of a koa canoe for Hui Lanakila. The Tarita — named after one of his daughters — was constructed in the late 1990s, and became a product of his sweat and blood.
Harold said Leighton severed some nerves on his left forearm during the building of the koa canoe, and nearly lost the use of his hand.
"But that never stopped him," Harold said. "Paddling was the biggest thing in his life, and that canoe was his pride."
The Tarita is considered one of the top koa canoes in the state.
"Putting the koa together pretty much by himself showed how dedicated he was to the club," said Manny Kulukulualani, one of Hui Lanakila's elite paddlers. "It's kind of a given — all the other clubs know the Tarita is one of the best boats out there."
Look was also a standout steersman who guided Hui Lanakila to several significant victories, including an upset win in the prestigious men's senior race at the 2004 Walter J. Macfarlane Regatta.
"He wasn't an explosive steersman, but he did it with finesse," said Aipa, who was on the crew that won the 2004 Macfarlane race.
Kulukulualani, who was also on the crew, added: "Leighton's strength was he could read the water so well. He was like a magician back there."
Even after Look moved to the masters 40-older program, his crews would keep up with the open crews during practices.
"They would stay right with us the whole way, even beat us some days," Kulukulualani said. "And a lot of it was because of his steering."
Martinez said the Hui Lanakila paddlers will wear special jerseys honoring Look during the Na Wahine O Ke Kai in September and the Moloka'i Hoe in October.
"It's heartbreaking to think he's not here, but at the same time, we know he's at peace now," Martinez said.
Look is survived by parents Harold and Janet Look, daughters Noelani Ah Min, Leigh-Taina Look and Tarita Keohokalole-Look, and siblings Laura Schlesinger, Leland Look and Les Look.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.