Making History

In 1976 Tahiti dominated the Moloka’i Hoe for the first time in a Tahitian canoe, the Tere Mata’i. Hawaiian paddlers spent the next year embroiled in debate over what constituted a Hawaiian outrigger canoe and what should be allowed to race in Hawai'i. Ultimately, a narrow-minded argument that defined the Hawaiian outrigger canoe as a historical snap shot of history outlawed all designs from Tahiti. Instead of allowing the ocean to dictate the design, the Hawai'i governing board of paddling voted to halt the evolution of outrigger canoe design in Hawai’i. All because the Tahitians outperformed us in our own waters.

The argument in the lead up to the 2014 Kaiwi Channel Solo World Championships was following a similar route. Six Tahitians were coming up for the Moloka’i Solo and four of them were registered to race in rudderless V-1s. Even though a V-1 is inarguably much more difficult and there are no rules that prohibit the absence of a rudder, there were many in Hawai’i who were arguing that if Tahitians race in Hawai’i, they should race in the same types of canoes that we race in. The Tahitians, possibly out of deference to Hawai’i, ultimately capitulated to that short sighted argument. With 48 hours to get used to a canoe they’d never been in, they decided to paddle on the second generation Pueo. And this is what happened...

On the starting line last Sunday was the most competitive, internationally diverse field ever assembled on OC-1s. There were a dozen paddlers with realistic shots at winning: Kai Bartlett, Jimmy Austin, Danny Ching, Steeve Teihotaata, Rete Ebb, Manutea Owen, Maitai Danielson, Heiva Paie-Amo, Manny Kulukulu’alani, Daniel Chun, Kua Nolan, and Travis Grant.

For the first two hours of the race Maitai maintained the lead, followed by a rotating line consisting of Danny, Steeve, Rete, and Travis. Just behind the lead pack was a scattering of Kua, Will, Kaihe, Makana, Jimmy Daniel, and Heiva. Hovering back around 20th place was Manutea Owen. And Kai Bartlett was by himself on a northern line. At about the mid-way point, the pack broke up. Rete, Travis, and Danny went slightly south; Jimmy dropped back and pulled out; Maitai and Steeve continued to battle on the rum line with Manutea, Heiva, and Manny a few hundred yards behind; Kua, Daniel, and Kainoa Tanoai went slightly north; and Kai Bartlett continued on his northern push. At two and a half hours in, nearly every one of the top competitors was within a minute of the lead. It was anyone’s race.

Travis, in an attempt to capitalize on the growing south wind, moved further south, leaving Danny and Rete to battle side by side on their slightly southern course. On rum line above them was Steeve, followed closely by Maitai and Manutea with Manny and Heiva battling behind, and the Big Island group of Daniel, Kua, and Kainoa dropping slightly behind to the north. In the meantime Kai was rapidly closing the gap on his northern route.

About three miles off of Port Lock Rete broke off from Danny and quickly assumed a powerful lead, followed by Steeve in the north on his rum line route. Manutea made a slight push to the north and got stuck in sticky water off the Portlock Wall, as Danny, gaining in momentum from the south, shot in ahead. With a minute separating each of them, Rete, Steeve, Danny, and Manutea rounded China Walls.

Coming around the corner it was as if the race had only just begun. Steeve and Rete, having never paddled into Hawai’i Kai before, went straight through the middle of a large south swell. Danny, seeing them disappear into the surf, made the ballsy move to follow them right as a set was hitting. All three of them were completely out of sight for three minutes. And then they appeared on the extreme right of Hawai’i Kai bay. Except Steeve was now leading, Danny in 2nd, and Rete, after two catastrophic hulies and a bout with the reef, was in third

And then it was over. Steeve, became the first person to ever win both the Super Aito and the Moloka’i Solo. And Danny Ching, in another super-human performance, was able to battle the Tahitians all the way across. Rete, after being in command of the entire race, ended up in third, with Manutea fourth, Heiva fifth, Manny sixth, Kai seventh, and Maitai eighth.

Coral Darbishire, finishing in 34th overall in the most competitive solo in history became the first woman to beat Lauren Spalding in the Moloka’i Solo. Vance Hashimoto finished strong as the first person ever to race the Moloka’i Solo in a V-1 (though the crossing has been made by others in the 70s, such as Tommy Holmes and Paul Gay).

All in all, it was an incredible historic day and an awe-inspiring performance by everyone out there.

2014 Pa'a Kaiwi Channel Solo World Championships from Makana Denton on Vimeo.

Posted on May 30, 2014