Big crowds covered Waikiki Beach, cheering for their friends and family as competitors rowed through the Pacific during the Wounded Warrior Canoe Regatta, Aug. 18, 2013.
Wounded warriors, active duty service members and veterans from different services and bases throughout the island joined family members to compete in 600-meter races during this military-based event.
The regatta is just one event of the 12th annual Duke’s OceanFest and takes place every year in Waikiki. The event is held in honor of Olympic gold medalist Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, a legendary local surfer and “the greatest waterman who ever lived,” according to http://www.dukesoceanfest.com. OceanFest started Sunday, and continues through Aug. 25, with a variety of water-based activities.
The regatta was split into four divisions. First were the wounded warriors, followed by active duty, veterans, and youth. The tournaments were played with a bracket system and teams only went against challengers in their own division. Forty-two teams participated overall, mostly active duty. The children in the youth division were ages 9 through 16.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s wounded warriors participated in the regatta as well. The team spent nearly six weeks preparing for the race.
“I participated to create Espirit de Corps as well as team building and (prove) what Marines can do when we want to accomplish a task,” said Sgt. Clayton Hewes, a section leader with Wounded Warrior Battalion West-Detachment Hawaii.
Each team had six rowers. Participants did not have to be experienced, they just needed to sign up for the event and have a team. Many of the competitors were amateur rowers who were trained and sponsored by various canoe clubs throughout the island.
“This is a big thing,” said Army Master Sgt. Jim Keen, noncommissioned officer in charge for Warrior Transition Battalion, based out of Schofield Barracks. “It helps with the warrior transition. Soldiers with lower body injuries can participate to keep up with physical training and cardio.”
Ka Mamala Hoe sponsored Keen’s team and practiced with them for the last four months. The team met Tuesdays and Thursdays and used it as physical training because many of them have lower body injuries restricting their activities, Keen explained.
Participants in the wounded warrior division weren’t just wounded warriors, but also their family members. Six wounded warrior teams participated in the division. Warrior Transition Battalion’s team, ST 1, was the champion of the wounded warrior division.
“We’ve been practicing for four months now,” Keen said. “It’s really good for everyone. We don’t always have the exact same team because some people have different appointments but in the end we had a great team.”
MCB Hawaii’s wounded warriors may not have walked away with a win, but certainly knew they did their best.
“I know my team gave it everything we had and left everything there in the water,” Hewes said. “I felt we accomplished our goal and did a commendatory job.”