Thousands packed Waikiki beach Tuesday as teams raced out to sea for the 75th annual Walter J. Macfarlane regatta.
The Fourth of July tradition brought novice and experienced racers alike to the water for the world’s oldest outrigger canoe race.
“It is very special for us,” said Lapule Schultz, race coordinator and treasurer for the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association (OHCRA). “It has survived because of the pure location. It’s really fun for all of us and it’s survived all these years because of that.”
The sentimental regatta began in 1943 following the passing of former OHCRA president and avid waterman, Walter J. Macfarlane.
Canoe racing is Hawaii’s state sport. Every year, over 2,000 paddlers compete in the Hawaiian tradition.
As the island’s only surf regatta, paddlers must swim perpendicular to the beach straight out against the waves, both aiding in and adding challenges along the way.
“You’re never entirely out of the race,” said Anthony Hunt, President of the Outrigger Canoe Club. “If you get lucky and a wave times out about right you can get lucky and come from behind and be in contention.”
For many, the regatta has become a way to celebrate Hawaiian legacy as well as patriotic pride.
“You can race and compete…but at the same time you can see the celebration of Independence Day,” Hunt said. “You get this really interesting combination of being competitive and having a lot of fun at the same time celebrating a huge holiday for our country.”