Kai Opua’s boys 16 team celebrates its win during Saturday’s Moku O Hawaii championships. Kai Opua won the overall event again and earned several trips to the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state championships Aug. 4 on Oahu. (Tim Wright/Stephens Media)
HILO — Kai Opua’s depth and ability to collect medals of all colors proved an unbeatable combination, again, at the seventh annual Aunty Maile Mauhili/Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association championships.
The West Hawaii powerhouse was the only club to enter a canoe in all 43 events, and it piled up enough points to capture the Division A (21-43 events) title for the sixth straight year.
Keauhou (34 events) was second with 186 points, followed by Puna (171), Keaukaha (152), Kawaihae (126) and Kamehameha (102).
In Division B (11-20 races), Kai Ehitu (20) took the title with 109 points, far ahead of its only division rival, Paddlers of Laka (18), which had 55 points.
Hui Waa O Waiakea, powered by its gold-winning and undefeated boys 15, pocketed the Division C (1-10 events) title, entering nine races.
Hanakahi was second with 26 points, followed by Keoua (21), Kailana (15) and Waikoloa (11).
Waiakea’s 15 boys crew of Wyatt Dudoit, Dilyn-John Kekaualua-Nacis, Sumo Kekaualua-Tuiaana, Aven Kualii, Bronson Napoleon and Suwaiter Poch remained flawless, winning the half-mile race in 3 minutes and 53.01 seconds.
The other unbeaten Moku O Hawaii crews — Keauhou’s sophomore men, masters men 40, mixed masters 55, and Kai Opua’s women novice B, girls 16, boys 16, boys 18 and women freshmen — are still perfect.
Puna was the last other club to win the Division A crown. Otherwise, Kai Opua has not only dominated the Aunty Maile/Moku O Hawaii championships, but also regular-season regattas as well.
Kai Opua last lost a regatta two years ago. A disqualification (zero points) in a race gave the regatta to old nemesis Keauhou, which matched Kai Opua with 14 golds on Saturday.
But Kai Opua had more silver (9) and bronze (5) than Keauhou, which had three silver and four bronze medals, a separation that played a part.
The bigger deal was depth. Kai Opua has it; Keauhou doesn’t.
Keauhou, which doesn’t have the luxury of young paddlers, sat out nine races.
“There are two things that I like about the Moku O Hawaii championships. One is they’re always fun, and it’s the end of our fifth straight trip to Hilo,” Kai Opua president Larry Campos said. “Make no mistake, we love to come to Hilo. But coming to Hilo that often is a lot of tugging of canoes. We’ll try our best at Keehi Lagoon.”
The Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state regatta championships will be held Aug. 4 at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, lots of time for clubs to keep training.
All of the defending state champion crews — Kai Opua’s girls 12, boys 15, mixed men and women, Keauhou’s women masters 60, men masters 60, and mixed masters 55 — have qualified for states, except for Keaukaha’s boys 13 and Puna’s men open four.
That Keaukaha’s boys 13 is now the boys 14 crew, which placed second on Saturday and has already qualified for states.
In the men’s open four, Keauhou won and scored 13 points. Puna was second with 11 points, finishing fourth in the Moku O Hawaii standings and missing on one of the three lanes reserved for the Big Island at states.
Meanwhile, Kai Opua won seven of the first 14 events. Those are the races for the youngsters, ages 16 and under. It’s been a long-time club strength, and the gold points proved handy.
“Our kids’ programs in general are the strongest we’ve seen,” head coach Mike Atwood said. “We’re still going to improve. We use the state championships as a goal to compete with the other islands. We’ve got stiff competition on this island, and that has made our crews better.”
Waiakea president Ira Kekaualua knows he’s got an ace up his sleeve with his unbeaten 15 boys, a crew that scored six points with its gold win.
Dudoit, Kualii and Napoleon also paddle on the boys 16 crew, which finished second to Kai Opua and racked up five points. That’s a combined 11 of Waiakea’s 43 points, a good source of production from the youngsters.
“If all our crews paddled like the boys 15 they would win every race,” Kekaualua said.