A new long-distance canoe race is coming to Hawai'i Island this Saturday. It will not only provide paddling experience but will also benefit a significant historical site on the island. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken explains.
Lifetime Kona resident and canoe paddler Jerome Kanuha has created the new canoe race for two reasons. The first is practical.
“It’s a long distance canoe race from Waikola to Keauhou Bay. Paddlers have to qualify for Molokai Channel so they have to do a race more than 25 miles and do changes. “
Kanuha said Hawai'i Island paddlers usually go to other islands to find qualifying races. Once Kanuha started thinking about creating this 32-mile race, he decided to use it to support a trail that was part of his growing up life.
“The trail, Ala Kahakai, it’s so significant for the Hawaiians, for the kings and queens that walked it, that connects 200 ahupua’a. It actually goes around the whole island. I walked the trail when I was 12 years old with a bunch of my cousins. We surfed it from Puako and walked all the way with a bag of salt, couple bags of poi, some water, some throw net, with our surfboards, we walked all the way back to Makae’o, to the end of the runway. It took a week and we surfed all the surf spots. That’s 50 years ago. I understand how important it is, the mana, the footsteps I walked on, was from my kupuna.”
The 175 mile Alakahakai Trail became part of the National Park System 17 years ago. Kanuha says funding to preserve and restore it comes from the federal government. But with future funding for parks uncertain, donations and entry fees from Saturday’s canoe race will help support the project.
Everybody is invited to come to Keauhou Canoe Club at Keauhou Bay this Saturday from noon on to watch the canoes come in and learn more about the Alakahakai Trail from the National Park Service.