Paddling race only for iron-willed
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Past and future will be blended at the inaugural PA'A 'Eono Hoe outrigger canoe race on Sunday.
It is the latest version of a Moloka'i-to-O'ahu paddling race, and it will feature a unique mix of old and new rules for six-person canoes.
The 32-mile course will start at Papohaku Beach, Moloka'i, and finish at Maunalua Bay, O'ahu.
The most significant rule is an old one — only six paddlers will be allowed per team, meaning there will be no relief changes throughout the race ('eono is the Hawaiian word for six; hoe means to paddle).
Most long-distance canoe races — including the Moloka'i Hoe and Na Wahine O Ke Kai — allow teams to use three or four relief paddlers.
"When you look back at the initial crews that crossed the (Kaiwi) Channel, there were only a few that were daring enough to do it iron," veteran paddler Kamoa Kalama said. "This is a very strong attempt to acknowledge that."
The first two Moloka'i Hoe races in 1952 and 1953 did not allow relief changes. Every race since then has allowed relief paddlers.
'Eono Hoe race director Manny Kulukulualani said around 30 teams are expected to participate on Sunday.
"This is a race for experienced paddlers who can handle going that distance," said Kulukulualani, who will also paddle in the race. "The first crews in the (Moloka'i Hoe) did it, so I've always thought about what it was like for them. Now we get to see how tough it really is."
Because there will be no relief changes, the paddlers said pacing themselves during the race will be key.
"When you do (Moloka'i Hoe), you go all out because you know you're changing every 20 minutes," Kulukulualani said. "This is going to be more like a true marathon."
Kalama said his Team Hawai'i masters crew is prepared to take short breaks in the middle of the Kaiwi Channel.
"We'll stop to drink water, eat something," Kalama said. "We'll even have guys change (positions in the canoe) just to try and stay fresh."
The other significant rule revolves around modern technology. The race will feature an "open design" criteria, meaning canoes of any size can be used.
In most other long-distance canoe races, the canoes must meet a specified criteria. For the Moloka'i Hoe, for example, all canoes must weigh 400 pounds.
In Sunday's 'Eono Hoe, some canoes will weigh as little as 200 pounds.
Team Kamanu, led by captain Jimmy Austin, will paddle one of the new 200-pound canoes.
"We're hoping that those 200 pounds that we don't have to carry across the channel will create less fatigue on our bodies," Austin said.
Kulukulualani said technological advances have allowed canoe builders to make lighter canoes.
"So why not get creative and see what they can come up with?" he reasoned. "I understand the tradition that goes with this sport, but this is just a chance to try something different."
Austin added: "There's nothing wrong with wanting the sport to evolve while keeping the tradition. If these new canoes can get you across the channel faster, who wouldn't want to race in a faster canoe?"
At the same time, Kulukulualani said he does not want the 'Eono Hoe race to compete with the Moloka'i Hoe or Na Wahine O Ke Kai.
"The Moloka'i Hoe will always be the main event in paddling," he said. "This is just something different at a different time of the year to keep the sport going."
Team Kamanu and Team Livestrong are considered the top men's teams using lighter canoes. Team Pa'a, Lanikai and Hui Lanakila are the top men's teams using specified canoes.
In the women's division, Waikīkī Beachboys and Hui Lanakila are considered the top contenders. Both crews will use specified canoes.