The Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Canoe Races are on tap for this weekend in Kona. The event is the world’s largest long-distance canoe race. Kai Opua Canoe Club is the host. This year’s event is expecting around 140 kane teams and 130 wahine teams, with 2500 paddlers from all over the world.
Events will go Saturday through Monday. The longest distance races are Saturday, with women’s teams heading out from Kailua Pier down to Honaunau and men’s teams returning on the 18-mile paddle. Sunday will have shorter races for one-and two-man canoes plus a stand-up paddleboard competition, and on Monday, the second ever Ali’i Challenge–a grueling skills challenge in single hull canoes. Saturday evening there will be a torchlight parade starting at dusk and a dance.
The first race was in 1972, and was intended as a way to train for the grueling Na Wahine O Ke Kai (Women) and the Molokai Hoe (Men) long distance canoe races from the island of Molokai to the island of Oahu. Since its inception, it has continued to grow and now the Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Canoe Races are known around the world. The first, in 1972, fell on the Queen’s birthday, September 2, and every year, the races honor Queen Lili’uokalani.
Since those early beginnings, the race has grown tremendously. We now are host to over two thousand five hundred paddlers from all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Florida, California and Canada – just to name a few.
Saturday: Wa’a Kaukahi (single hull canoes)
The women start this event 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! The awards ceremony is right after finish of the men’s race.
Sunday: Wa’a Kaulua (double hull canoes)
On Sunday, the men and the women tie together two single hull canoes to make the double hulls, and the women and the mixed double hulls start, taking the Wa’a (canoes) 3 miles South to Lyman’s, where they turn and return to Kailua Bay for a total of six miles.
Sunday: OC1 (one person) & OC2 Races (two person)
The OC1 and OC2 canoe races are a recent addition to the more traditional racing events. The men and women paddling in this one follow the same course as the double-hull canoes.
Sunday: Stand-up Paddleboards
Course goes south to Casa de Emdeko, then a turn and return to Kailua Bay. The stock total distance is 3.5 miles and Unlimited distance is 4.5 miles.
Sunday: Teen (single hull canoes)
There are three Keiki 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. The awards ceremony is part of the luau Sunday afternoon.
Monday: Ali’i Challenge (single hull canoes – 12 person crew)
This is the second year for the Ali’i Challenge. The course will run north, the first turn will be at a buoy just outside the Honokohau Harbor. Then the course will double back on itself and the second turn will be at a buoy approximately 1/2 mile south of the Kailua-Kona pier. The third turn will be right about where the finish line is for Saturday’s men’s race, for a short approach to a lane marked by buoys off the pier where the crew change for the 6 women and 6 men will take place. The Ali’i Challenge is a newly formatted race, from start to finish. Learn more– visit the “Alii Challenge” link at www.kaiopua.org.
There is more detail about the event at www.kaiopua.org
Photographs are available courtesy of the official race photographer, Charla Photography, online at www.charlaphotography.com. Password is canoe2011 for last year’s race. This year’s race photos will be online by September 9–the password will be canoe2012.