May 19, 2006 at 2:45 AM HST - Updated July 1 at 10:56 PM
(KHNL) -- These high school students paddle for Healani. Three times a week, their coach picks them up from school to make sure they make it to practice. "If we didn't pick them up, we probably wouldn't see any team," said Coach Joven Asuncion.
He says it's not that they're lazy, they just can't drive.
"They used to catch the bus to the Ala Wai," Asuncion said, "Now because we're so far away, there's no bus that comes all the way in here."
Now they practice in Kalihi. Instead of a 10 minute ride, it takes an hour to an hour and a half. Since they relocated to Sand Island, Healani has not only had to cut practice time by half, but membership has dropped from 200 kids to 91.
Lopaka Matthews is determined to make it to practice. But he says the distance keeps others away. "Now a lot of people don't want to paddle because it's so far," said Matthews.
Distance isn't the only challenge.
"There's Ke'ehi Lagoon right around the corner and somebody had lepto, so I'm sure the parents were worried too," said Asuncion.
Now Asuncion needs to assure parents the water is safe and make sure he gets his kids ready for their first race of the season.
"I didn't think it would be this hard," he said.
But he says it's a small price to pay for his kids. "To see the kids paddle, it's worthwhile."