KEEHI LAGOON, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association's state championships are going forward this weekend at Keehi Lagoon, but at least five canoe clubs have decided not to participate because of ongoing water quality concerns.
Participants, meanwhile, are being told to stay in their canoe on race day and out of the water.
A Brown Water Advisory for Keehi Lagoon has been lifted, but health officials say bacteria levels in the lagoon remain high.
Despite the problems, association officials are trying to remain upbeat.
"The flags are up. People are out here practicing. The tents the food booths everything is getting set," said Water Vierra, president of the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association.
He added, "We're encouraging all clubs to forgo the use of boat holders. They have the most exposure to the water."
The problems at the lagoon started with Tropical Storm Darby, which sent debris and dirty run-off into the waterway popular among paddlers.
While much of the big debris has been cleared from the lagoon, bacteria levels at Keehi Lagoon are still high.
As of Friday afternoon, five Oahu canoe clubs have pulled out the race. They are: Outrigger Canoe Club, Hui Nalu O Hawaii Canoe Club, Lanikai Canoe Club, Na Keiki O Ka Mo'i Canoe Club and Manu O Ke Kai Canoe Club.
Still, Vierra said, some 3,000 paddlers are expected to come out for the competition. Typically, about 3,500 participate.
Paddlers practicing Friday used duct tape to cover open cuts on their arms and legs. And everyone was wearing slippers in and out of the water.
Members of Napili Canoe Club made the trek from Maui for the championship after a lot of thought. Coaches said they're not taking any chances.
"Before we ever went in the water we started cleaning all their cuts. Covering them. Giving them new skin," said Colin Delos Reyes. "As they're coming out of the water we're making sure they get clean. Soap and water, alcohol swabs."
Several paddlers, though, admitted they were nervous to get in the water.
"The only reason we'd go in the water is to get in the boat or get out of the boat," said paddler Lexa Oraa.
The first race is expected to kick off Saturday at 8:15 a.m.