Hundreds gathered at the Kailua Pier for the 54th annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament opening ceremonies Sunday.
In a format that mirrored the Olympic opening ceremonies, 39 teams representing 10 countries took to the pier, bearing their countries flags and marching to their respective national anthems played by the Hawaii County Band.
“The opening ceremonies were great and it was nice to see it brought back to Kamakahonu” said Hawaii councilman Dru Kanuha. “Fishing is the centerpiece of the Kona lifestyle. We have so many great events here in Kona, and the HIBT is front and center among those.”
Kanuha also spoke on the huge international contingency in town for the event.
“For people visiting our home internationally, there couldn’t be a better place to visit than the home of our king, Kamehameha. We have China, Japan, Vanuatu — it’s great to see the diversity of our world come together here in Kailua. We can really showcase what we have in Kona to the whole world on this stage.”
State Sen. Brickwood Galuteria was another honored guest at the event and welcomed the competitors with a speech that drew many laughs after admitteding his love for the reality TV show Wicked Tuna.
After the ceremonies came to an end, competitors gathered toward the back of the pier for a dinner where they could mingle and get to know the other teams.
With the camaraderie and festivities of the opening ceremonies now in the past, tomorrow the real fun starts — Day 1 of fishing.
Start fishing begins at 7:30 a.m. when all the boats line up across the historic Kailua Bay and jet out for what they can only hope will be a day of tight lines and big bites.
An angler to keep an eye on is Rocky Franich, from Pajaro Valley Gamefish Club California. Franich has competed in every HIBT since 1961 and the Pajaro Valley team has been together 40-plus years and have tallied three HIBT wins — a feat that only a handful of anglers in the world can claim.
Weigh-ins are a 4:30 p.m. daily at the Kailua Pier and spectators should come check out all the action that happens until the tournament wraps up Friday.