Outrigger Canoe League Teaches More Than Paddling

Celeste Paiaina
Celeste Paiaina
Kalani Irvine
Kalani Irvine
Naia Ah Sam
Naia Ah Sam

KEEHI LAGOON (KHNL) -- The sport of canoe paddling has been around for centuries. While technology has helped advance the sport, there are those who still keep its roots alive.

One racing league uses canoes similar to the ones used back in the day. The reason -- to perpetuate the sport and culture.

Keehi Lagoon is packed, as the Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, or OHCRA, kicks off its 2008 regatta regular season.

"Just a wonderful sport. you're in the water, you get a great workout, and it's a family event," said Celeste Paiaina, of Healani Canoe Club.

"it's fun because in regatta racing, we go from 12 year olds, kids, boys and girls, all the way up to kupuna, or the 60-year olds," said Kalani Irvine, OHCRA President. "Lot of times, you have 2, 3 generations of families here on the beach."

Lots of fun. Full of tradition. And OHCRA wants to live up to that, by requiring all clubs to use koa canoes -- rather than the modern fiberglass ones -- in the regattas.

"You're taught not to walk in the boat with your slippers on, we try not to have sand in there," said Paiaina.

"It's absolutely an honor to be involved within a sport that encompasses history, culture, as well as learning ancestry," said Naia Ah Sam, of Healani Canoe Club.

Learning, and keeping alive a sport born in these waters. And starting traditions of their own.

"At the end of our season, we have a banquet. and each crew is supposed to put on a skit, and the winner of the skit earns bragging rights, as well as Gumby," said Paiaina. "So this is a big deal."

And so is keeping tradition alive.

OHCRA's regatta season wraps up in August.

The long distance race season starts right after, and ends with the super bowl of outrigger canoe racing -- the Molokai Hoe in October.