Categorized | Canoe Racing, Sports

2014 Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races (Aug. 28-Sept 1)


As canoes line up across Kailua Bay for the start of the 43rd Annual Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races Saturday, Aug. 30, it will be the tale of the Hawaiian koa canoe that is whispered across the starting line.

Last year, after a dry spell longer than most paddlers can remember, a traditional Hawaiian koa canoe crossed the finish line first in the men’s division.

Shouts of joy and excitement rang out across Kailua Pier as an iron crew (meaning no crew changes) paddled their Hawaiian koa canoe over the finish line and into the history books.

Over the past few decades, outrigger canoe racing throughout the world has evolved with modern technology and lighter weight materials, filling outrigger canoe race starting lines with sleek, state-of-the-art canoes that have eclipsed traditional models.

Next generation composite and laminate canoes are revealing new possibilities with faster times, and new even more innovative designs as outrigger canoe paddling gains popularity throughout the world.

However, it’s this very authentic experience of paddling a traditional Hawaiian koa canoe in the Queen’s Race that excites many international crews as they prepare to race this year’s Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races.

Racing in the Queen’s Race is an experience that cannot be captured anywhere else on the planet. In order to understand the future of outrigger canoe racing, take a moment to learn the sport’s historical context.

How did Hawaii’s official sport get its start? A chapter in history is needed to get the complete story.

In 1902, Queen Liliuokalani’s cousin Prince Kuhio commissioned Henry Weeks, a noted Kona furniture maker and canoe builder, to build the fastest racing canoe in the islands, christened the Aa.

According to the late Tommy Holmes in his classic book, ‘The Hawaiian Canoe,’ the Aa, “captured wins for its Hawaiian crew in legendary series of races in 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1910.”

Hawaii’s first racing canoe weighed in at a hefty 620-pounds and was progressive for its day. Before the Aa revolutionized racing, ordinary fishing canoes that served a more practical dual purpose were used.

Hawaiians built their outrigger canoes from one-piece carved out hardwood hulls made from native koa. Koa can reach heights of 100 feet and is recognized as one of the finest textured woods in the world.

By the 1930s, traditional Hawaiian koa canoes being constructed exclusively for racing were most likely built in South Kona.

These Hawaiian racing canoes constructed between 1940 and 1977 are considered by many to be decedents of the Malia-type Kona canoe, the early 1930 design.

By 1977, Tahitian-style designs started showing up on the starting line.

More recently, technology has moved outrigger canoe racing towards lighter weight designs.

As the 43rd Annual Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races launches its full schedule of ocean sport races this Labor Day weekend, paddlers will still be awed knowing that ancient canoe racing was a sport reserved to keep a chief’s warriors in excellent condition.

On Saturday, Aug. 30, the world’s largest long distance race starts at Kailua Bay where the women paddle the Kona coast and head for their finish line 18 miles away at Honaunau.

Iron women crews, those who paddle the entire 18 miles without any crew changes, start the race at 7:30 a.m., followed by the 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.

Men’s crews follow the same staggered start racing from onaunau 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.

Best place to view the race? Book a seat aboard Blue Sea Cruises or Body Glove Cruises for a front row view of Saturday’s signature race. Blue Sea Cruises is making their Spirit of Kona tour catamaran available for transporting race participants and spectators.

Then as the sun sets, paddlers from around the world will gather in Historic Kailua Village to celebrate 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 on their favorite crews along the Alii Drive parade route.

Several other official Queen Liliuokalani Canoe Race events unfold throughout the holiday weekend:

Thursday, Aug. 28

* 9 a.m. to noon
Historic Kailua Village Cultural Walk
Lead by Hannah Kihalani Springer
This is a free event. Meet at Kamakahonu Beach next to Kailua Pier

* 6-8 p.m.
Mayor’s International Paddlers Reception
Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel Ballroom
A welcome event for paddlers that have traveled

Friday, Aug. 29

* Paddling Talk Story
An informal talk with some of outrigger canoe racing’s best and most well-loved paddlers. On the lawn at Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

Saturday, Aug. 30

* Waa Kaukahi (single hull canoes)
Starting at 7:30 a.m. at the women start the race paddling 18 miles from Kailua Bay to Honaunau. The men then bring it back 18 miles to Kailua Bay. The Ironman divisions do so with no changes Same team takes it all the way.

* Award Presentation
Starting at 3:30 p.m. all awards for Saturday races will be given at Kamakahonu Bay

* Torchlight Parade
Torchlight parade through Historic Kailua Village starts at 6:30 p.m. Participants meet at Hale Halawai County Pavilion. Parade winds its way through Historic Kailua Village starting at Hale Halawai County Pavilion and ending at the Kailua Pier. QLCR concert to follow at Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel Luau Grounds.

Sunday, Aug. 31
9 a.m.
Kailua Pier

* Waa Kaulua (double hull canoes)
Men and women crews tie together two single hull canoes to make the double hulls. The women and the mixed double hulls start the race at, taking the waa (canoes) 3 miles South and return to Kailua Bay for a total of 6 miles.

* OC1 (one person) & OC2 Races (two person)
The OC1 and OC2 canoe races are a recent QLCR addition. Men and women paddling in this race follow the same course as the double-hull canoes.

* Stand-up Paddleboard Race
Starting in Kailua Bay, the SUP race heads south. Stock boards race 3.5 miles and Unlimited division races 4.5 miles. Boards are available for rent at Kona Boys at Kamakahonu Bay.

* Teen (single hull canoes)
QLCR officials are adding three teen divisions (OC-6 – 6 person crews): 16 and under, 18 and under & mixed, 18 and under. The young people paddling this race follow the same course as the double hull canoes.

Monday, Sept. 1
9 a.m.
Kailua Pier

* Alii Challenge
Alii Challenge, a single hull canoe race, tests each 12-person crew with land and sea tasks that must be completed before moving ahead. Based on the formats of Survivor and Amazing Race, Alii Challenge includes a 17.5 mile open ocean race and land course tasks that challenges each 12-person crew on Hawaiian history, games and a lot of fun.

The 43rd Queen Liliuokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Races are sponsored by Hawaii Tourism Authority, County of Hawaii, Queen K Tesoro, Steinlager, Hulakai, OluKai, Ocean Paddler Television and Courtyard Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

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