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Moku O Hawaii gears up for championships

July 6, 2014 - 12:05am

The Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association season is actually a two-part big deal.

The first goal is for clubs to be first, second or at least third in the Moku O Hawaii standings.

Most times, Moku O Hawaii has three lanes to the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state championships.

With only two spots this season, it’s a dogfight and a headache for coaches, athletic directors and presidents to assemble top paddlers on bubble crews.

Paddlers are restricted to two events. Stacking two races leaves other crews vulnerable to opponents in bubble battles where points are close. Spreading out top paddlers might be more of a gamble.

What should a club do?

For Kai Opua, the seven-time champ and ruler of the A division (15 to 40 events), the answer is easy: Enjoy the day.

“We were trying to qualify our bubble teams for states,” Kai Opua president Bo Campos said Saturday at Hilo Bay. “But more than anything we wanted to win the regatta, if we can. Puna and Keauhou are tough.

“What I liked most about today was we went out and did our jobs. I may be the president but the paddlers make the club. We have dedicated paddlers and coaches, and they’ve got a love for paddling, our club and each other. It’s all about the paddlers.”

In 2006, Puna took down mighty Kai Opua for the Moku O Hawaii crown.

The A division is best-of-the-best for local paddlers, and the caliber of competition gets turned up about 200 degrees in difficulty at the HCRA state championships — one reason Moku O Hawaii has never won the AAAA division (21-40 events).

At home, it’s “locals rule.” That’s the unofficial motto of the Aunty Maile Mauhili/Moku O Hawaii championships.

No matter a club’s place in the standings, win your race July 19 at Hilo Bay and your crew is a local champion.

Two more fall

The ranks of unbeaten crews went from seven to five, waving goodbye to Kawaihae’s mixed 12, and Keauhou’s men 60 under conditions that challenged paddlers with a friendly but persistent wind.

In the quarter-mile race, Kai Ehitu — Malie Grace, Kalai Ballesteros, Malosi Abraham, Maimiti Otare, Zion Swope and Kiana Anakalea — posted a winning time of 2 minutes, 2.22 seconds to Kawaihae’s 2:03.23.

Keauhou’s men 60 crew scratched.

The remaining undefeated crews are: Kai Ehitu girls 12, Keaukaha boys 12 and 16, Keauhou men 40, Puna women 50, and Kai Opua women 65.