KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii --
Cheers erupted from the shoreline as canoe paddlers from more than a dozen Oahu canoe clubs competed in the John D. Kaupiko Regatta in Kaneohe Bay, near Hangar 101, July 13, 2014.
This is the regatta’s third consecutive year being hosted at Marine Corps Base Hawaii after a hiatus.
Among the competitors were members of the Na Koa Lani Outrigger Canoe Club, many of whom are Marine Corps Base Hawaii personnel and dependents. Because Na Koa Lani OCC is currently awaiting official membership in the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, which is required to enter the regatta, they entered with local club Keola O Ke Kai.
“It’s a good venue because the race course is pretty even,” said Gino Dayton, Keola O Ke Kai head coach.
Dayton and assistant coach Johnna del Castillo manage Keola O Ke Kai.
“We think this partnership is working very well, and we’re glad that we can give kids the opportunity to learn how to paddle,” del Castillo said.
More than 20 members of Na Koa Lani competed in Sunday’s races, including Tasha Kong and Emily Hinrichs, both children with MCB Hawaii connections.
“I just like (the) feeling of racing and being in the water, no matter what place you get,” said Kong, 13. “Today’s race was fun.”
Kong’s father is a civilian military police officer at the Provost Marshal’s Office, who also competed in the regatta with Kailua Canoe Club.
“It’s nice, pretty and I like that we can do it on base,” said Emily Hinrichs, 14, daughter of a former sailor. “We need more kids out here to help us.”
Hinrichs has paddled for four years, with the encouragement of family members and friends who also enjoy paddling.
Several Keola O Ke Kai members are also military children, like Andrew Fiala. The son of a soldier, Fiala, 15, has been paddling for a little more than a year.
“It’s very different compared to (any other sport) I’ve ever done,” Fiala said. “It’s just such an honor to be part of the Hawaiian culture and learn to behave and respect people.”
Fiala normally paddles on his school team at Radford High School and with Keola O Ke Kai in the summer.
“I heard about (paddling) through school (and wanted to try) something different than baseball or basketball,” Fiala said.“It’s very different compared to (any other sport) I’ve ever done.”
Fiala’s father Michael, who is stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said he was impressed at the way coaches teach the children to embrace more mature values not typical of their age group. He noted how he was watched his son grow and mature while participating in paddling.
“We never would have had that experience on the mainland,” said Michael Fiala. “(The coaches) empower the kids a lot. (The children learn) when you’re on the (canoe), if you don’t do your job the whole team suffers.”
Del Castillo said the club has military members from all four main branches of the military.
“In (my children’s minds) (paddling) trumps all their sports,” said Navy spouse Andrea Gushiken, whose children, Autumn and Evan, paddle for Keola O Ke Kai. “Every summer we sacrifice every Sunday morning (for races).”
Evan Gushiken, 15, commented that although there wasn’t much wind for the race, the water was favorably flat and the day was pretty good overall.
Though Andrea Gushiken said her children were initially not interested in paddling, they were hooked after the first practice.
“I like paddling because it keeps the Hawaiian culture alive,” Evan Gushiken said.
The regatta was named after Lukela “John D” Kaupiko, who coached Hui Nalu Canoe Club for nearly 30 years until his death in 1962. The Kaupiko Regatta is just one of several races hosted by canoe clubs in the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association.