Moku O Hawaii: Paddlers get serious at Puna regatta


Birds fly, fish swim and the top paddling crews turn into a speeding bullet at the Puna regatta at Hilo Bay on Saturday.

It’s the second-to-last Moku O Hawaii Outrigger Canoe Racing Association event of the season, and a time when the best paddlers get serious.

Fast times don’t always translate into first place, as last week’s John C. Kekua Jr./Kamehameha results showed.

Fifteen records were set last week, and multiple crews broke old marks in nine races. That’s never been done before in the 40-plus-year history of Moku O Hawaii.

Everyone was chasing records and fast times in the hot pursuit of points in the Moku O Hawaii standings.

Moku O Hawaii has only two lanes at each event at the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association state championships.

In previous years, there were usually three lanes. With one fewer spot, it’s a dogfight with so much competition in the 40 events.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting races:

Girls 12: Unbeaten Kai Ehitu is safely in first place with 37 points. Kawaihae is next with 29 points and tailgating is Keauhou with 26 points.

Girls 13: Keauhou is sitting in first with 52 points. Laka has 45 points and breathing on its neck is Kai Ehitu with 43 points.

Boys 13: Five crews are so close: Keaukaha, 34 points; Kai Ehitu, 33; Kai Opua, 29; Kailana, 29; and Kawaihae, 27. It’s musical chairs at its best.

Boys 14: It’s musical chairs Part 2 with Laka, 48 points; Kai Opua, 43; Kai Ehitu, 41; and Keaukaha, 37.

Mixed novice B: Another nail-biter with Kai Ehitu, 33 points; Kawaihae, 31; Keaukaha, 30; and Kai Opua, 29. Kai Opua is a dangerous dark horse, taking a disqualification in the third regatta.

Boys 16: Undefeated Keaukaha has 43 points. Kamehameha and Puna are tied with 31 — they’re also 3-3 against each other.

Men’s sophomore: Three clubs are a point apart with Keauhou, 37 points; Kai Opua, 36; and Puna, 35. For years, those three have been the best clubs. Besides states, reputation is also on the line.

Men’s 65: Keauhou and Keaukaha are tied for first with 24 points, and right behind is Kai Opua with 21 points.

After the Puna regatta, there’s a week off before the Aunty Maile Mauhili/Moku O Hawaii championships July 19.

The HCRA state championships will be held Aug. 2 at Keehi Lagoon on Oahu.

A year later, it will be Hilo Bay’s turn to host states.

Still unbeaten

The ranks of undefeated crews lost a member at last week’s regatta.

Kai Ehitu has two perfect crews: girls 12 and men 60. Keaukaha also has two unbeaten: boys 12 and boys 16.

Other flawless crews are Kawaihae mixed 12, Keauhou men 40, Kai Opua women 65, and Puna women 50.

Puna revenge

There are only three full house (with all 12 clubs) races: men open four, women open four, and mixed men and women — the last event of the day.

Maybe that old saying is true, “Save the best for last.”

At last week’s regatta, Kai Opua won the half-mile mixed men and women in 3 minutes and 36.85 seconds.

Puna had its unbeaten streak snapped and finished in 3:42.09.

If birds fly and fish swim, the Puna paddlers know the best way to beat someone is to turn into a speeding bullet.