Categorized | Canoe Racing, Featured, Sports

Paddles up!

(Photo courtesy of Kai Opua Canoe Club)


Where do the world’s best ocean paddlers gather every Labor Day weekend? In Kona, at the Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races.

The world’s largest outrigger canoe races, hosted by Kai Opua Canoe Club, launch Saturday, Sept. 1 and continue through Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 with expert paddlers from around the world competing in hotly contested races.

Crews from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Tahiti, United Kingdom and an estimated 75 crews from the US are headed to Kona to compete at this year’s races.

Hawaii will also be well represented with multiple crews throughout the islands from Kauai to Oahu to Molokai to Maui making plans to be Saturday’s starting line. More than 60 Big Island crews are expected on the line as the Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race registration continues to swell.

Saturday’s signature 18-mile long distance race along the Kona coast will host some of outrigger canoe racing’s best paddlers and crews at the Waa Kaukahi (races for single hull canoes).

Women’s crews will line up across Kailua Bay and head for their finish line at Honaunau.

Iron women crews, who paddle the entire 18-miles without any crew changes, start the race at 7:30 a.m., followed by women crews paddling in the Unlimited division, whose boats have no weight limit and finally, the women crews who will change paddlers throughout the race get their start at 7:40 a.m.

Both the men’s and women’s races have five-minute split staggered starts.

Waa Kaukahi men’s crews follow the same staggered start racing from Honaunau back to Kailua starting at 11:45 a.m. The first men’s crew is expected to cross the finish line in Kailua Bay about 1 p.m.

Race champions will be crowned at the Long Distance Race Award ceremony at Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel luau grounds starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The public is invited to attend.

Then as the sun sets, paddlers gathered in Kona from around the world celebrate race weekend with the traditional Torch Light Parade.

This Queen Liliuokalani Canoe Race parade begins at Hale Halawai, travels through Historic Kailua Village and ends on Kailua Pier. The public is invited to cheer for their favorite crew along Alii Drive.

And while the competition is fierce throughout the holiday weekend, the Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races are rooted in a higher purpose – to perpetuate Hawaii’s vibrant canoe culture.

Outrigger canoes have been a primary source of transportation throughout the history of Pacific Islanders. Today, traditional outrigger canoe racing is a very popular sport in Hawaii and other Pacific nations.

In fact, the popularity of outrigger canoe racing has spread to nearly all Pacific Rim countries, Europe and Central and South America.

In the 1950s, the precursor to the Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races was an outrigger canoe race held on Oahu, from Keei Beach around Diamond Head and over to Kailua Beach. Kai Opua Canoe Club hosted that race and their crew, coached by Frank Enriques, beat out the other crews that included some very good crews from Hilo.

Two decades later, when Kai Opua Canoe Club created the Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races, this same 18 miles is the race distance they had in mind.

Kai Opua Canoe Club started what was then-called the Queen’s Race in 1972 as a training race leading up to the Molokai Hoe, the renowned open ocean race from Molokai to Oahu.

Louis Kahanamoku, the fifth of six brothers of the legendary water sports family whose most famous member was three-time Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, and his wife Mary Jane acted as General Chairman and Race Secretary.

It was Louis who proposed to name the race after Queen Liliuokalani since her birthday is celebrated Sept. 2.

The inaugural Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race was a men only race, starting in Kealakekua Bay and finishing at Kailua Pier. The first race attracted eight 6-man crews.

Two years following, the women’s division was added and the course was set with women racing from Kailua Bay to Honaunau, and then the men bring the race back – racing from Honaunau to Kailua.

2,500 Paddlers Now Gather from Around the World

Today, the 41st annual Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races embrace and celebrate Hawaii’s ocean heritage. The Races draw more than 2,500 competitors from around the world who arrive in Kona to race the 18-mile open ocean course.

Several events unfold throughout the three-day weekend:

* Saturday, Sept. 1
Waa Kaukahi (races for single hull canoes)
Awards Ceremony
Torchlight Parade

* Sunday, Sept. 2
Waa Kaulua (races for double hull canoes)
OC1 (one person) & OC2 Races (two person)
Stand-up Paddleboards
Teen (single hull canoes)
Hawaiian luau

* Monday, Sept. 3
Alii Challenge (a blend of Survivor and Amazing Race with single hull canoes – 12 person crew)

About Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races

Single hull outrigger racing canoes carry six paddlers; double hulls carry 12.

Add these traditional words to your vocabulary and you’ll sound like a pro in no time: waa (canoe, the very same word in Hawaiian, Tahitian and Maori), ama (outrigger float on the canoe), hoe (start paddling), huki (dig) and huli (flip the canoe – not what you want to do in racing).

The Annual Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races (QLCR) kicks off each Labor Day holiday weekend.

The world’s largest long distance canoe race is organized and hosted by Kai Opua Canoe Club, started 1929 in Kona.

QLCR includes an 18-mile long distance single hull canoe race for men and women crews, double-hull canoe races, stand-up paddleboard races, OC1, OC2 and teen long distance canoe races.

The Alii Challenge, a blend of Survivor and Amazing Race, includes a paddling distance of almost 17.5 miles followed by each crew of 12 negotiating a land course.

Other Queen Liliuokalani events include International Paddlers Night, Torch Light Parade through Historic Kailua Village, Queen Liliuokalani Awards Ceremonies and a traditional Hawaiian Luau.

The Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race is sponsored in part by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, County of Hawaii, Queen K Tesoro, Steinlager, OluKai, Ocean Paddler Television, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, Hulakai and numerous corporate and community donors.

Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race Winners

2011 Overall Men Livestrong #1 Iron Open NK 1:52:26
2011 Overall Women Kalihi Kai Iron Open NK 2:12:17

2010 Overall Men Team Primo Iron Open NK 1:53:56
2010 Overall Women Waikiki Beach Iron Unlimited 2:08:52
Boys Canoe Club

2009 Overall Men Team Primo #2 Iron Open NK 1:52:34
2009 Overall Women Hui Lanakila #2 Iron Open NK 2:12:16

2008 Overall Men Team Livestrong #2 Iron Open NK 1:54:06
2008 Overall Women Waikiki Beach Iron Open NK 2:05:47
Boys Canoe Club #6

2007 Overall Men Tui Tonga Iron Open NK 1:43:42
2007 Overall Women Hui Lanakila Iron Open NK 2:18:39

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