Keauhou is not only known for being a retirement destination in West Hawaii, but it’s also the name of the community’s canoe club that seemingly energizes older folks when they hit the water.
Make no mistake, those old-timers can paddle and often kick tail at the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association state regatta’s Division AAA (13-20 events), bringing home the title the last two years.
One reason Keauhou’s streak isn’t longer is because the club went all in in 2009, competing in Division AAAA (21-40 races). The club (26 crews) didn’t have enough bullets and placed sixth in the seven-team field.
Hawaiian (37 events) outgunned everyone else that year at Hilo Bay. Kai Opua (36 lanes) was second. Both have strong keiki programs. Keauhou has youngsters, but just not enough to fill all the events at regattas, either at states or the Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association.
During the Moku O Hawaii season, Keauhou didn’t have crews for boys 14, 15, 16 and 18, or girls 16 and 18. Essentially, the club doesn’t have an expansive farm system, the new blood that grows old and better through time. That’s something Keauhou president Bill Armer is working on.
That dilemma can wait another day. Today at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, the West Hawaii senior citizens will focus on a three-peat, hoping the backbone of its defending state champion crews — women masters 60, men masters 60 and mixed masters 55 — can deliver its usual accommodation of points.
“We’re hoping to defend our crown and three-peat,” said Armer, with the club the last seven years. “It’s one of the strongest sets of crews we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’re hoping to do quite well and perform up to our potential.”
The club won AA in 2008, and placed second in that bracket in ’07, the first year of four divisions. In 2006, with three divisions, Keauhou earned first in single A.
What is it that makes them so tough?
“I think it’s the level of competition between our clubs,” Armer said. “It’s high caliber, and we push each other to be better and stronger. We’re also delighted to be a neighbor island coming to the big city, and we love to compete with the clubs of all islands.
“The key is consistency. When we send crews, they perform really well. This year, our novice A (paddlers up to four years experience) men and women are really developing, and they’re pitching in with everybody. It’s been very extensive the past four years, a quantum lead-up to our strong 50-plus paddlers. That’s our trademark, both sexes.”
The mixed masters 55 (James Budde, Ned Burns, Sherri Carney, Lila Duim, Kathy Kaai, Robert Vatter) is not only defending state champs, but the crew is also undefeated during the Moku O Hawaii season.
In fact, though the names change, Keauhou’s mixed masters 55 powerhouse has won that state race every year since 2008.
The previous year, it was Kawaihae, which is entering Division A (1-6 races) with its mixed 12, freshmen women and sophomores, women open four, novice A men and senior open women.
“It’s all different crews,” club president and head coach Manny Veincent said. “The past two years the kids did really good. We don’t have most of them back. They were doing different things during the summer. We lost out, not having our top kids.
“I think our mixed 12 should do really well. I’d give them a top five. The women freshmen should do well also. I’d give them top five, too. They’re pretty consistent. They get off to pretty good starts. We’ve been working on finishes. Their turns are not too bad. We only have six crews, and most of them are adults. We’ll borrow a canoe from Kai Opua.”