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Final tune-up: Puna paddles to 5th straight regatta victory; Laka uses youth to rise in standings

July 16, 2017 - 12:05am

The family ties run strong for the Paddlers of Laka club in the Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association, where siblings follow each other and keep gold aspirations within reach.

Head coach Doug Bumatay’s club competes in 19 races, but is carried by its young paddlers, especially the boys 12 crew, which showed its precision at the Paddlers of Laka/Hanakahi regatta on Saturday at Hilo Bay.

Gray skies, a bothersome breeze and a passing shower greeted paddlers for the day’s early races, a final tune-up before the 12th annual Aunty Maile Mauhili/Moku O Hawaii championships.

Puna charged to its fifth straight victory in the Hilo regattas, beating rival Kai Opua..

Laka’s Jacob Pakani Jr., Kenan Quintos-Freeman, Alon Halsted, Wyatt Andrade, Keoni Bacdad, and Makana Bumatay ripped past the flag in 1 minute, 57.29 seconds in the quarter-mile event.

Laka edged out Kawaihae’s 1:58.56 to expand its gap in the Moku O Hawaii standings, 73 to 69 points.

Those two are solid locks to earn the island’s two state lanes to the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association championships. Kai Opua is a distant third with 57 points.

Pakani and Bumatay fall under the family tree of Laka youth coaches Christine Pakani and Pua Kalaniopio, sister of Doug Bumatay.

“A lot of paddlers are children of paddlers who paddled for the club,” said Kalaniopio, who aced that tongue twister.

Laka still has a dog in the hunt for a state berth for its girl 12 crew, but that’s a two sides of the coin deal.

On one hand, Kawaihae sits in first with 57 points, followed by Kai Ehitu (53) and Laka (49). That’s how each club finished on Saturday in that exact order.

First place includes a bonus point. So if first place is 10 points then second is eight points. That gives the Laka girls a fighting chance, considering they won last week’s race at the Kamehameha regatta.

Kai Ehitu’s boys 13 crew is still unbeaten after a 2:00.01 to Laka’s 2:04.27. Both crews are in good shape with 65 and 60 points and can make plane reservations for states, which will be held on Maui. Kamehameha is third with 39 points.

Laka’s boys 18 crew sits in second place behind Kai Opua. That event only has six crews. At least, there’s a Valley Isle carrot on a stick.

Christine Pakani’s daughter Kaui Pakani-Tsukiyama pulled double gold at the Aunty Maile/Moku O Hawaii championships last year with the girls 15 and 18 crews. (The boys 13 also won a gold.)

The Waiakea senior isn’t on any crew that has a shot at states. That ends a nice run, which started with the women novice B or rookie, followed with the girls 12 and then up the age ladder.

When green paddlers, especially family members, show up at Laka, Doug Bumatay has a reason the youngsters turn out so golden.

“The success of our youth program is because of our youth coaches, Christine and Pua,” he said. “The kids are the muscle behind our small group. A lot of the kids on the boys 12 will be back next year as well.”

The Laka youngsters don’t eat any extra bowls of Wheaties. Rather, Kalaniopio pointed out that success comes from a shared mindset.

“It stems from the coaches having the same vision, and the coaches think alike and make it a fun thing,” she said. “We’re really a family oriented club.”

Even if the Laka paddlers are not related, they still all fall under the family tree, and that keeps them going.

Note: Results were not available at press time. If made available, they will run in Monday’s edition of West Hawaii Today.

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